Faced with declining enrollment and a projected deficit at the end of the fiscal year in June, the university is taking steps to improve residential and overall enrollment in the coming years, including awarding nearly $100,000 in housing grants for the spring semester and providing an additional $1 million for student financial aid next fall.
Director of Public Affairs Bob Caswell said the $1 million additional student financial aid would be on top of the roughly $7 million of university funds USM provides for financial aid to students each year.
President Selma Botman addressed the financial implications of the 4 percent decrease in fall credit hours, which officials estimate will result in tuition and fee revenues to be 2.3 percent — or $1.9 million — below budget, on the USM Public Affairs website this week.
The deficit will be offset by using projected savings from unfilled academic and nonacademic positions; lowering fuel and electricity spending through conservation efforts made over the past year and by locking down a lower than projected rate on utilities; and revenues from indirect cost recovery, the funds received to cover the overhead associated with grants and contracts, according to President Botman and Caswell.
Revenues for residence halls, which are supported with room and board fees and not tuition or state appropriations, are also projected to by down by $3.1 million at the end of the fiscal year.
Caswell said Residential Life expenses will be reduced through reduced labor costs and supplies in the resident halls as a result of the decrease in occupancy. However, the university will also be using a portion of the $2.5 million residence hall reserve fund to cover the remaining residential deficit. Caswell said this is a typical example of how reserve funds are usually used.
Caswell said the university is making a push to increase residential enrollment by provided $94,000 in housing grants for the spring, roughly $41,000 of which has already been granted to 26 students, and university officials are also seriously considering lowering room and board fees.
As a result of student feedback, Gorham will be offering more classes, and the university is planning to do more aggressive marketing to point out the benefits of living on campus, according to Caswell.