||FOR RELEASE AT 11:30 AM February 15, 2005
CONTACT: John Diamond 207-949-4904 (cell) or Rita Sullivan 207-973-3245
WESTPHAL STRESSES NEED FOR PUBLIC AND PRIVATE-SECTOR
COMMITMENT TO HIGHER EDUCATION
AUGUSTA - University of Maine System Chancellor Joseph W. Westphal told lawmakers Tuesday that the University System is committed to working as a partner with Maine policy makers to establish the importance and value of public higher education as equal in prominence, importance, and value as any policy or program receiving State support.
Westphal's remarks were offered as part of the State of the University System Address, delivered at a joint session of the Maine Senate and House of Representatives in Augusta at the State House.
Westphal pointed to current successes of the University of Maine System-including record enrollments, record levels of faculty and staff productivity, record success in winning federally funded research grants, and increased partnerships with the public and private sectors-but stressed the fact that Maine's public universities will not be able to meet the future needs of the State based on the current level of revenue sources.
With strong leadership of the committee chairs, the support and commitments of our Governor and strong bipartisan leadership of both chambers, I believe we will find solutions, said Westphal, who pledged to work with policy makers to develop a new model for financing education.
Maine cannot progress economically, educationally, or culturally without making more of a public and private-sector commitment-a financial, philosophical, and political commitment-to higher education, said Westphal. Without serious public and private re-investment and partnerships, we will see the aspirations and achievements of Maine people held back.
Westphal outlined the University System's Strategic Plan, which was based on an assessment of Maine's educational, economic, social, cultural, and environmental needs, in order to raise academic quality, improve efficiency, and enhance the ability of the University System to serve the people of Maine. The plan contains nine strategic directions designed to improve the quality, focus, innovation, resourcefulness, and accountability of Maine's public universities.
We ask for your patience as we undergo this laborious, complex, and essential effort, said Westphal.
Westphal asked for the Legislature's assistance in continuing the momentum of success in order to establish a world-class university system for Maine. He said a critical first step in that continuing evolution is to remind the public of the enormous benefits that Maine's public universities provide, and to reinforce the State's 140-year commitment to public higher education.
These priorities will result in more Mainers with a college degree; stronger partnerships with industry; new opportunities for workforce development and economic gain; and greater support for the hundreds of thousands of Maine people who depend on Maine's universities for programs, services, and outreach, said Westphal.
Established in 1968, the University of Maine System is the state's largest educational entity, with more than 34,300 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.
A complete transcript of the State of the University System Address is available at http://www.maine.edu/souafeb05.html .