The UMS Board of Trustees met Monday to discuss possible modifications to the proposed system-wide strategic plan.
Meeting in Freeport, Trustees heard Chancellor Joseph W. Westphal outline several recommended modifications to the draft strategic plan issued in March. They include:
1. University College Outreach Centers
The 11 University College academic outreach centers, currently run by the University System through the vice chancellor for academic and student affairs, would be assigned to individual universities as described below. The East Millinocket, Dover-Foxcroft, and Calais centers, which would have been phased out under the original proposal, will remain open under the Chancellor's revised proposal. The assignment of these centers would be as follows:
USM: Rumford-Mexico; Oxford Hills; Sanford; Saco-Biddeford; Bath-Brunswick; Thomaston
*UMaine: Ellsworth; Dover-Foxcroft; East Millinocket
*Changes from original (draft) plan
2. The originally proposed "University of Northern Maine"
The universities in Fort Kent, Presque Isle, and Machias would not be merged into one university but would instead form a "consortium" whereby they would create one set of General Education requirements and one budget and capital plan to work with, rather than maintain three budgets and plans. The proposal to rename the three schools as the "University of Northern Maine" would be abandoned. The three schools would keep separate presidents but would seek ways to collectively reduce administrative costs. Each school would develop signature programs (niches) and would collaborate to minimize duplication of academic majors.
3. Associate Degrees
The University System would work with the Maine Community College System on a transition plan that would phase out associate degree programs so that the universities can focus resources on bachelor's and graduate-level degrees, as proposed in the original plan. In the revised plan, the University System would continue with associate degrees until a seamless transition occurred over time. In addition to the two associate degrees at University College of Bangor and the one in Fort Kent, which the University System had previously said it would maintain because of unique circumstances, it's possible that other associate degrees could be retained within the System. That will be determined through discussions with the Maine Community College System.
4. Higher Education Parks
The Chancellor proposed collaboration with the Community Colleges through the establishment of higher education parks in Bangor and Augusta. Under this proposal, which Community College System President John Fitzsimmons has agreed to in principle, Kennebec Valley Community College of Fairfield would be invited to expand its operation to the UMA campus to benefit the transition of associate degrees and to add a convenient option to interested KVCC and UMA students. Similarly, Eastern Maine Community College would be invited to expand its operation to the UCB campus in Bangor for the same reason as with KVCC/UMA.
5. University College of Bangor (UCB), which currently is part of the University of Maine at Augusta, will offer certain bachelor's degrees and certain associate degrees and will be run by UMaine, most likely through its Division of Lifelong Learning (i.e., its continuing education arm). The original plan did not include plans to continue a university presence at UCB.
Chancellor Westphal also said that he and Community College System President Fitzsimmons have agreed to develop a proposal for cost-sharing facilities and other resources.
6. Distance Education: The technical infrastructure would be run by System-wide Services (as it currently is) and not de-centralized (as proposed in the draft plan).
7. Centralization: Clarified that some of the centralization could be handled by collaboration among campuses rather than at System-Wide Services in Bangor. "Front-line" services would not be centralized to maintain client or customer service.
Chancellor Westphal did not recommend any other changes to major elements of the original plan, including the proposed merger of USM and UMA.
No action was taken on any element of the original proposal or the suggested revisions.
Monday's day-long discussion included a lengthy review of public feedback the System received during the three-month comment period that followed the March 26 release of the draft plan.
Trustees have asked for a revised plan to be prepared by September 7. The Board will consider acting on the revised plan at its next meeting on September 19-20. That plan should emphasize the desire to maintain and enhance quality; provide administrative cost savings that can be re-invested in academic quality; and include sufficient detail on the projected financial impact.
Established in 1968, the University of Maine System is the states largest educational institution, with more than 34,000 students enrolled. It features seven universities some with multiple campuses -- located across the state, as well as 11 University College outreach centers and more than 100 interactive distance education sites. For more information, log onto www.maine.edu.