||FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: December 5, 2005
CONTACT: John Diamond 973-3224 (cell 949-4904) or Peggy Markson 973-3245
UNIVERSITY SYSTEM TRUSTEES REQUESTING STATE HELP TO OFFSET INCREASED FUEL COSTS
Board Also Receives Update on Higher Education Task Force Report
BANGOR The University of Maine System Board of Trustees on Monday voted to seek $5 million in additional state aid, primarily to offset the unusually high cost of heating oil and electricity.
If approved by the Governor and Legislature, the additional funds would be made available to the University System for the 2007 fiscal year (FY07). As it now stands, the State will provide the University System $183.1 million dollars for FY07 the same amount that it is providing to the University System for the current budget year.
“Energy costs are increasing despite rigorous and ongoing conservation measures on the part of our universities,” explained University System Chancellor Joseph W. Westphal. “In addition, the cost of employee health insurance continues to rise. The $5 million we are seeking will not address all of our funding gaps, but it’s an important step toward doing so.”
Board Chair Charles L. Johnson III added that the gap between the University System’s projected revenue and expenses for FY07 is approximately $15 million. The requested State appropriation would cover one-third of that gap, with the rest covered by a combination of additional cost reductions and revenue increases, he said.
Trustee James D. Mullen stressed that the size of the $5 million request should not be interpreted as the extent of the System’s need for state support. He and other trustees emphasized that the $5 million should be presented as “a minimum” amount for FY2007. They noted that the request represents just a 2.7 percent increase in funding over the current budget year.
In other business, the Board received a report issued by the Governor’s Task Force on Higher Education in the Kennebec Valley. The task force, co-chaired by trustees Susan Gendron and L. Joseph Wishcamper, consisted of faculty, student, and community representatives involved or interested in Maine’s public universities and community colleges. Governor John Baldacci created the task force in May to review the University System’s 2004 decision to administratively merge much of the University of Maine at Augusta with the University of Southern Maine.
The task force report recommends that UMA be retained as a separate university with, among other things, greater formal collaboration between it and Maine’s community colleges. Trustee Gregory Cyr noted that the “[formal collaboration with the community colleges] was an option that was not available to us when we were preparing the original plan [to merge UMA with USM],” specifically, the Board’s lack of authority to include the community college system as a factor in the trustees’ plan for UMA and the Augusta region.
The task force report was referred to the Board’s strategic planning committee, which will consider the recommendations as part of its update of the strategic plan in May.
In other action:
- The Board gave approval to the University of Maine to proceed with a six-year, $150 million private fundraising campaign. UMaine President Robert A. Kennedy explained that at least $100 million of the funds would create endowments to support student scholarships and faculty.
- Trustees approved the University of Maine at Fort Kent’s revised strategic plan, presented by UMFK President Richard Cost.
- Trustee Gendron, the State’s commissioner of education and cultural affairs, led a presentation related to the State’s new requirement that all Maine high school juniors take the SAT college entrance examination. The purpose of the requirement is to replace the existing Maine Educational Assessment exams with a test that Gendron says provides a comparable measure of academic readiness. She said that use of the SAT exam will provide a variety of incentives that will result in an increased number and percentage of Maine high school students who enroll in post-secondary college after graduation.
- The Board approved UMaine’s request to create a School of Forest Resources by combining two existing academic departments.
- The Board also approved an innovative student initiative to approve a revolving loan fund to encourage and develop energy conservation projects at the UMaine campus. Funds for the loan program would be provided by the University of Maine Foundation, a private philanthropic entity.
- Trustees received updates on the System’s equal opportunity policy; international programs; student code of conduct; and fall 2005 enrollments.
Established in 1968, the University of Maine System is the state's largest educational entity. 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