FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: John Diamond
March 24, 2003 852-1693 or 973-3224
UNIVERSITY SYSTEM CHANCELLOR, TRUSTEES PURSUING WAYS
TO PROTECT QUALITY DURING TOUGH ECONOMIC TIMES
COST-CUTTING STRATEGIES KEY TO DEALING WITH STATE REVENUE SHORTAGES AND INCREASED HEALTH CARE COSTS
PRESQUE ISLE University of Maine System trustees said Monday that despite significant efforts to reduce operating costs and streamline functions, the combination of the States ongoing revenue shortfall and significant increases in the cost of health care insurance is stressing the University Systems ability to maintain quality.
Speaking at the Board of Trustees March meeting at the University of Maine at Presque Isle, Board chairman James D. Mullen of Bangor said that current conditions make budgeting and policymaking extremely difficult for him and his Board colleagues.
We know that our legislative appropriation will be flat-funded for the next two years, he said, referring to the tentative budget agreement recently reached between the Baldacci administration and legislators. By itself, [flat-funding] creates a budget deficit for us just because of rapidly rising healthcare costs and normal inflationary increases in all of our operating costs.
Mullen stressed that the Board and System leaders have been engaged in efforts to curtail the cost of operating the 34,000-student University System.
Chancellor (Joseph W.) Westphal, our campus presidents, and their staffs, continue to trim costs and to seek new ways to operate more efficiently, Mullen explained. Our challenge will be to do this while still delivering quality education and related educational services.
Noting that the University Systems enrollment is at a record-high level, Westphal said that the current financial condition comes at the worst time possible, given student and public demands on the University System.
We are doing everything possible to minimize the negative impact on students and on the quality of what our universities offer, he added. We are doing everything we can to meet the challenges and to identify cost savings.
Westphal said that he will be submitting a budget plan to the trustees at its next meeting in June, following final legislative action on the University Systems biennial State appropriation.
In other business, Mullen appointed a nominating committee to develop a slate of recommendations for a new Board chair and vice chair, whose duties will commence at the Boards September meeting. Members of the committee are trustees Donald McDowell, Gregory Cyr, Sandra Prescott, L. Joseph Wishcamper, and Mullen.
Westphal announced that he has appointed three University System presidents to work with the Maine Technical College System on the recently announced joint agreement to promote greater collaboration between the two higher education systems. The University System presidents to serve are Nancy Hensel of the University of Maine at Presque Isle; Charles Lyons of the University of Maine at Augusta; and Richard Pattenaude of the University of Southern Maine.
In other business, University System trustees:
- approved a proposal to authorize planning and construction of a 150-bed residence hall at the University of Maine at Fort Kent, to be funded through self-liquidating revenue bonds
- authorized the University of Maine to undertake a $3 million capital campaign to build an addition to the Harold Alfond Sports Arena, with $1.25 million already pledged by Harold Alfond
- authorized the University of Maine at Farmington to undertake a $3.12 million capital campaign, to complement a $4.8 million State bond issue approved by voters in 2001, to construct a new Education Center on campus
- approved tenure appointments for 57 faculty members
- began the process for reviewing the University Systems Code of Student Conduct, which is scheduled for re-ratification or modification at the Boards next meeting
Established in 1968, the University of Maine System is the states largest educational institution. It features seven campuses located across the state, as well as 10 University College outreach centers and more than 100 interactive distance education sites. Currently, the University System has more than 34,100 students enrolled.