UMS Bulletins

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: May 24, 2004
CONTACT: John Diamond 207-973-3224
Rita Sullivan 207- 973-3245

UNIVERSITY SYSTEM TRUSTEES APPROVE NEW BUDGET

Budget Includes Tuition and Fee Increases; More Student Financial Aid

ORONO - The University of Maine System Board of Trustees today approved a $421.5 million operating budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1. The budget represents a one percent increase over the current budget year.

Meeting in Orono at the University of Maine, trustees adopted the budget as proposed by University System Chancellor Joseph W. Westphal. The budget includes an increase in tuition and fees that averages 7.2 percent, and a four percent average increase in room and board charges.

To lessen the impact on students, the new budget increases funds for financial aid by seven percent, or $1.7 million. In all, the University System will be providing $26.1 million in student financial aid. That amount does not include federally funded student financial aid or private educational loans.

“This is a conservative budget,” Westphal explained. “It reflects our efforts to manage increases in the cost of employee health insurance, library acquisitions, and other items essential to maintaining quality.

“The tuition increase is necessary to make sure that students receive a high quality of academic programs and services,” Westphal continued. “It’s necessary despite numerous cost-cutting and efficiency measures that we’ve already undertaken.”

Westphal and others noted that despite the proposed increase, tuition rates at Maine’s most expensive public university, the University of Maine in Orono, is still less expensive than its counterparts in the other New England states.

The Board’s Finance and Facilities Committee recommended that the Board approve the budget “with the Board’s regret for having to raise tuition.”

In other Board action:

Board members spent an hour receiving public comment on the University System’s Draft Strategic Plan. The proposal, which will be revised and submitted to the Board for approval in September, seeks to reduce costs and improve quality, primarily through consolidation of administrative services and the eventual phase-out of most Associate-level degrees, which are also offered by the State’s community colleges.

Board Vice Chairman Wickham Skinner reiterated the importance of and need for revising the System’s operation.

“In the situation we are dealing with, timing is critical,” Skinner said. “We are dealing with many time-sensitive issues that need our most immediate action – issues such as changes in demographics, a slow-moving State economy, the increasing cost of employee compensation and operation, State-authorized competition for Associate-level degree programs, and new opportunities for us to use technology to increase quality and effectiveness.

“I realize that some individuals would prefer that we use a different model for developing and implementing our plan. They prefer a consensus model, one that starts with broad input from all stakeholder groups. That model works in some situations – but not in all.

“Yes, stakeholder input is important. That’s why we took our draft plan out to the universities themselves – to hear what people had to say, so that the plan can be modified before being adopted.

“As the governing board of Maine’s public universities, we have a duty to act in the best interests of our students and our state. For that very reason, we chose a model that would maintain and enhance quality, cost-effectiveness, and value, emphasizing a reduction of duplication and administration to do so.

“We feel that the approach we have taken is a responsible one, and that the outcome will reflect that,” Skinner said.

Established in 1968, the University of Maine System is the state’s 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.