Faced with massive budget shortfall, colleges forced to make large cuts next year

USM President Selma Botman and Provost John Wright speak at a financial symposium last year.
File Photo by Paul Koenig
USM President Selma Botman and Provost John Wright speak at a financial symposium last year.

Posted on February 20, 2012 in News
By Noah Hurowitz

The University of Southern Maine’s three major colleges have three weeks to come up with about $1 million each in budget cuts for fiscal year 2013 as a result of a budget shortfall of over $5 million.

USM President Selma Botman and Provost and Vice-President for Academic Affairs John Wright delivered the news to faculty of the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences on Friday in the Wishcamper Center.

Following a decade of declining enrollment in which the the student body shrunk by 18 percent, USM is facing a $5.1 million budget shortfall for FY13, which begins in July. And, according to Botman, that $5.1 million, which must be trimmed from the university’s FY13 base budget, will not be coming back in the foreseeable future.

“Unless we retain our students at a much more vigorous rate, unless we recruit more students, that money is not coming back,” she said. “And we are modeling FY14 to be an even weaker economy than FY13.”

Wright confronted the group with similarly somber figures.

“We have about $3.35 million to come up with between now and three weeks from now,” he said to a halting chorus of grim laughter. Wright said $3.35 million out of the total $5.1 million shortfall must come from academic affairs, because at 70 percent of the university’s budget, it represents the largest portion in which cuts must be made. Each of USM’s three major colleges has a yearly budget of about $16.5 million.

“I’ve asked each one of those deans to work with their chairs and identify $1 million apiece to give back that they will never see again,” Wright said. “It’s hard. They’re frustrated, but they’ve been working on it.”

Lewiston-Auburn College has been asked to come up with $300,000 in budget cuts, and earlier this year $800,000 was taken out of the provost’s budget in order to make up for the shortfall in enrollment last fall.

Wright said the university budget loses $650,000 for every percentage point drop in enrollment.

Despite the sobering budgetary woes, Botman ended her address on a more optimistic note.

“The Eden of 20th century public higher education is already receding into memory,” Botman said. “But we, like [English poet John] Milton’s Adam and Eve, have already embarked on an uncertain but also exhilarating journey forward into the transformation, the reformation of public higher education.”

 

 

 

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