USM has until June 30 to remove $450,000 from its budget for the 2002-2003 fiscal year. This budget cut is the final of three cuts last year, totaling $2.8 million. Before the end of his term, Governor Angus King signed a budget curtailment order cutting the University of Maine System’s budget by $1.85 million.
President Richard Pattenaude calls the budget cut “painful.” Nearly half of the University’s finances come from the state while the rest comes from tuition and fees.
Pattenaude retained some optimism, citing a recent 3% growth in enrollment for the spring semester. The increased number of new students will generate revenue to aid the University in its budget crisis.
Robert Caswell, executive director of Media & Community Relations, said the university will cut the money out of the budget by keeping vacant positions open, canceling hiring searches, and canceling under-enrolled classes. Pattenaude emphasized that the university will be “more stringent” in cutting under-enrolled classes for the spring and upcoming fall classes.
“Students should not be nervous about not graduating,” said Pattenaude. All efforts will be made not to cancel required classes.
Nancy Artz, department and program chair of Business Administration, has already felt the effects of the budget crunch. Her department has cancelled a number of classes and will be offering fewer sections of classes next year.
“We are trying our best to minimize the academic harm and to work with students individually if there is a problem with graduation,” said Artz. “We will be less likely to cut seniors’ classes and offer course substitutions.”
Though Pattenaude would not give an exact number of vacant positions that will remain open, he added that non-essential positions will be eliminated. He declined to comment further.
The university is waiting for the newly inaugurated Baldacci administration to submit their budget by early February. By that time, the university will be more willing to discuss a possible tuition increase in the fall and to fill vacant positions. Many changes ride on the government’s decision, Pattenaude said. “Hopefully the government will try to be fair to us.”
The likelihood of more statewide cuts in education will lead to a tuition increase at USM. “It relates to the legislature’s decision,” Pattenaude said.