University of Maine System Trustees authorize property sales to advance student affordability, public benefit

The Trustees’ actions to sell property in Bangor, Houlton and Presque Isle are aligned with the System’s new strategic plan and a commitment to meeting student and community needs. Trustees also approved leveraging one-time funding for facilities investments that enable the expansion of in-demand workforce development and research.

Orono, Maine — The University of Maine System (UMS) Board of Trustees unanimously approved the sale of three properties in Aroostook and Penobscot Counties today so they can be repurposed to better benefit the public.

At their meeting at the University of Maine (UMaine), the Board of Trustees gave final authorization to the University of Maine at Augusta to sell four undeveloped acres to Bangor Housing Development Corp. (BHDC) for the appraised value of $160,000 to help address the state’s need for more affordable housing.

BHDC hopes to build 50 units of affordable senior housing on the parcel, adjacent to another 50-unit project under development on Sunset Avenue in Bangor.

UMS Trustees also approved proposals from the University of Maine Presque Isle (UMPI) to sell underutilized buildings in Presque Isle and Houlton.

The Board’s actions advance a goal in the System’s new strategic plan — the first in nearly two decades — to achieve fiscal and energy efficiencies by reducing holdings of unused or underutilized buildings and land.

“As important as it is for our System to realize cost savings necessary for our public universities to maintain affordable access to high-quality education and opportunity for Maine students, so too is ensuring these assets are being leveraged to best meet the current and future needs of Maine communities,” said UMS Board Chair Trish Riley. “As we saw today, Maine’s public universities are taking seriously the Board’s call to look closely at the return on investment of our instructional sites and centers across the state and are bringing forward creative solutions that balance the realities of our bottom line and the needs of local communities.”

UMPI plans to sell the Houlton Higher Education Center to a community partner with an aligned mission, while retaining office and teaching space in the building.

“While these properties served our students and our System very well for a time, the needs of both Maine learners and the communities they live and work in have evolved and we now believe they can be put to better use,” said UMS Chancellor Dannel Malloy. “As we right-size our footprint for the future, we are more committed than ever to meeting learners where they are and providing the programming they need to get where they want to be. I am especially pleased that the Houlton Higher Education Center will continue to be utilized for educational purposes, and that through this important facility, UMPI will maintain both a presence and pathways to social mobility through postsecondary education in southern Aroostook County.”

Thanks to the popularity of its YourPace online competency-based degree program and expanded internet connectivity in the state, distance education now makes up 74% of the credit hours delivered by UMPI compared to 23% five years ago, and accounted for 37% of all UMS credit hours this fall.

The changes in how learners are accessing UMPI’s academic and other programming has led to a sharp drop in student usage of the 15,662-square-foot building, which is located 50 miles from its main campus in Presque Isle.

UMPI also will seek a buyer for the 9,650-square-foot Skyway Complex in Presque Isle. The university has used the building for student and faculty housing in the past, but the entire current and projected residential student population can be housed on the main campus.

UMPI/UMS plans to sell the two properties at market value or above through a competitive public process that ensures all good faith proposals can be considered in a fair and transparent manner.

Last year, System Trustees authorized the University of Southern Maine’s sale of five properties on Chamberlain Street and Deering Avenue in Portland, which collectively are valued at more than $2.9 million and currently listed individually through F.O. Bailey Real Estate. Meanwhile, UMaine is currently soliciting purchase, lease or alternative creative real property offers through a competitive RFP process for the 32,477-square-foot Hutchinson Center in Belfast, which has not enrolled students for in-person academic programming since 2020.

In 2022, UMS sold its interest in 16 Central St. in Bangor, which now houses the offices of Wabanaki Public Health and Wellness.

At their meeting Monday and also consistent with the System’s strategic plan, Trustees supported investments that strengthen workforce development and research capacity and leverage one-time federal funding secured by U.S. Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King and also through Gov. Janet Mills’ Maine Jobs & Recovery Plan.

Projects approved will expand and enhance high-impact simulation training for nursing students at UMaine and UMA, the latter of which has experienced a four-fold increase in its nursing program enrollment over the past five years. Modernization of existing UMaine research facilities in Orono, Jonesboro and Presque Isle was also authorized to advance understanding of PFAS and grow Maine’s potato and wild blueberry industries.

About the University of Maine System

Established in 1968, the University of Maine System (UMS) unites seven Maine’s 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.

In 2020 UMS became the first and only statewide enterprise of public higher education in the country to transition to a unified accreditation for the system. Much different than a merger or consolidation, unified accreditation is a new operating model for the University of Maine System that removes the primary barrier to inter-institutional collaboration.

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 seven main campuses: The University of Maine (UMaine), including its regional campus the University of Maine at Machias (UMaine Machias); 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 a UMA campus in Bangor, USM campuses in Gorham and Lewiston-Auburn, the University of Maine School of Law, and the University of Maine Graduate and Professional Center.