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UMS Task Force Presents Findings to Board of Trustees 

Joy Hollowell

42.8 million dollars. That’s how much the University of Maine system must shore up over the next four years in order to make budget.Back in February, Chancellor Richard Pattenaude formed a task force made up of faculty and members of the public, to figure out how to do that.Monday, members of that group as well as two others, presented their findings to the UMS Board of Trustees.”How do you take a good university, during a time of challenge, meeting the challenge, but make it better?”That’s the question University of Maine System Chancellor Richard Pattenaude presented to the task force.The group includes faculty members as well as those who do not work for the school system. “We’ve pushed tuition real hard in the last few years because of rising costs, we’re going to slow that down. We’ve got to make sure it’s affordable,” says Pattenaude.Welcome news to any student, but begs the question, how?David Flanagan chaired the task force and is also the retired CEO of Central Maine Power. He and other members all agree that working together as one system, rather than seven separate schools, would be most beneficial as well as economical.”We’ve found that there’s too much competition between different branches of the University of Maine System. That we’re working sub-optimately, that we should have fewer classes spread out around the system or more distance education” says Flanagan.In addition to the task force, reports were also presented by two other committees, made up of school system staff.The groups are proposing to eliminate up to 25 percent of classes with small enrollment, as well as more than 100 faculty positions, some of which have never been filled. The members also recommend re-examining tuition waivers to make sure financial aid is truly going to students who need it, and creating common school calendars.”It’s probably felt that for each university to be on their own to go out and increase enrollment probably is not doable. And so we have to work collectively and collaboratively as a system and engage the entire state to work on that,” says Jim Breece, Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs at the University who also chaired the committee studying academic programs.The Board of Trustees will continue taking public comment on the findings until August first. A draft plan will be presented at the September meeting, followed by more public comment. Chancellor Pattenaude hopes to have a final plan in place by November.Anyone wishing to review and or comment on the three reports, can do so by sending an email to [email protected] or mail to New Challenges, New Directions: c/o Office of the Chancellor, University of Maine System, 16 Central Street, Bangor, ME 04401.