Tuition and fee revenue declines a fraction-of-a-percent as enrollment-sustaining commitment to student safety and access, stabilization funds, and a curtailment order that minimized the impact on public higher education contribute to closing $5.69 million budget shortfall
Orono, Maine — The Board of Trustees of the University of Maine System offered final endorsement to a $550 million FY21 spending plan without a COVID-related tuition increase at an October 28, 2020 Special Board meeting. The unrestricted operating budget for the 30,000-student educational enterprise was conditionally approved in June with a $5.69 million unresolved shortfall amidst great uncertainty surrounding fall enrollment, residence hall capacity, operating expenses, and pandemic-related adjustments to the state appropriation.
COVID-19 has resulted in approximately $80 million in unanticipated expenses and lost revenue for the University of Maine System since March of 2020. While there is no COVID-related increase in tuition in the spending plan, the budget does include a long-planned 2.5% tuition increase tied to inflation for the current 20-21 academic year.
The final budget approved unanimously by the Board for the fiscal year that started July reduces expenses by $9.1 million from the $559.5 million proposal conditionally approved in June. It utilizes approximately $10 million in campus reserves and University of Maine System budget stabilization funds to come into balance.
The budget also includes a state curtailment limited to just $2.25 million that minimizes the impact of lost state revenues on public higher education. The 1% cut is significantly below the 10% target set for state agencies when curtailment planning began over the summer.
“Despite the uncertainty of the pandemic the strategic direction and leadership team of the University of Maine System remains focused on student success, service, and meeting the state’s research and workforce needs.” said James Erwin, Chair of the University of Maine System Board of Trustees. “The Board thanks Governor Mills for her strong support and recognizes the tremendous innovation and commitment of faculty and staff across the System throughout the public health crisis.
“This is a good budget in very challenging times and points to the stability and standing we are achieving as we set priorities for the state’s largest educational enterprise. No matter the circumstance, students, parents, and employers can count on Maine’s public universities to remain focused on providing learners with accessible and affordable opportunities to become 21st century workforce and community leaders.
Despite Pandemic Tuition and Fee Revenue Declines Only 0.26%
The University of Maine System became one of the first higher education institutions in the country to begin planning for the fall semester when Chancellor Dannel Malloy appointed the Fall 2020 Safe Return Planning Committee on April 21. That group helped college and university leaders from across Maine’s $4.5 billion higher education sector establish safe return principles for the fall and developed the science-focused Together for Maine safe return plan the University of Maine System unveiled on July 1.
Safety practices and protocols to provide physical distancing and limit density on the campuses have reduced projected dining and residence hall revenue by a projected $19.1 million in the FY21 spending plan compared to the prior year, a 28.5% decline.
The commitment to extending access to education and providing options for students impacted by the pandemic helped the University of Maine System defy national declines in enrollment numbers and tuition and fee revenue. The $321.6 million in tuition and fee revenue projected for FY21 is down just one-quarter-of-one percent (0.26%) compared to $322.4 million budgeted in FY20.
With a student population of 26,252 undergraduate and graduate students enrolled as of the October 15, 2020 fall census enrollment at Maine’s public universities is down just 155 students (0.6%) compared to last fall. According to the National Clearing House, enrollment in higher education is down 3% across the country.
“We started early and without equivocation with our planning to bring our students back to campus, limit the spread of infection in Maine communities, and to meet and serve learners no matter where they are,” said Chancellor Dannel Malloy. “Owing to the leadership of our presidents and the incredible devotion of our faculty and staff, Maine is leading one of the safest and most successful fall semesters in the country.
“We committed to being together for Maine for our students. None of our success this fall would be possible without their commitment to campus and public safety,” continued Malloy. “We asked our students for leadership at the start of the semester and they have delivered.”
Chancellor Malloy speaks with USM student Nathan Henry, a Business Marketing Major from Brewer, Maine, moving into his residence hall at the start of the Fall 2020 semester.
About the University of Maine System
Established in 1968, the University of Maine System (UMS) unites six distinctive public universities, comprising 10 campuses and numerous centers, in the common purpose of providing quality higher education while delivering on its traditional tripartite mission of teaching, research, and public service.
A comprehensive public institution of higher education, UMS serves more than 30,000 students annually and is supported by the efforts of more than 2,000 full-time and part-time faculty, more than 3,000 regular full-time and part-time staff, and a complement of part-time temporary (adjunct) faculty.
Reaching more than 500,000 people annually through educational and cultural offerings, the University of Maine System also benefits from more than two-thirds of its alumni population residing within the state; more than 123,000 individuals.
The System consists of six universities: The University of Maine (UMaine), including its regional campus the University of Maine at Machias (UMM); the University of Maine at Augusta (UMA); the University of Maine at Farmington (UMF); the University of Maine at Fort Kent (UMFK), the University of Maine at Presque Isle (UMPI); and the University of Southern Maine (USM). The System also includes the University of Maine School of Law and the University of Maine Graduate and Professional Center.