Spring enrollment drop surprises administrators

Posted on April 07, 2014 in News
By matthewgraeff

Sokvonny Chhouk | The Free Press

Enrollment numbers for spring 2014 have come in lower than anticipated by the USM administration, exacerbating already difficult financial circumstances.

The 5.3 percent drop in enrollment between this spring and last spring means that, even with the emergency budget cuts, USM will bring in $1.5 million less than projected by the fiscal year 2014 budget.

Since the administration projected a rise in enrollment for FY14 and not a fall, said Executive Director of Public Affairs Bob Caswell, the drop in enrollment was initially expected to cost the school a $5.5 million drop in revenue. However, to offset the budgetary discrepancy USM has taken measures to decrease expenditures.

“We are spending less on facilities maintenance and repair and using one-time savings from vacant positions,” said Caswell.

The remaining $1.5 million deficit, Caswell said, will be covered by USM’s $3.3 million reserve fund, but USM is using caution in spending the reserve money.

“You have heard people ask why we don’t use such reserves to cover salaries of those being laid off. These reserves are not permanent additions to our budget. Spend the money once and it’s gone,” Caswell said. “So, if we were to use reserves to cover salaries, we could do so for one year, but next year we’d have to find new money to cover the salaries.”

USM is taking a number of measures to increase enrollment in coming semesters, including increasing high school and college fair visits across New England, an aggressive online campaign to increase USM’s online presence by using social media and search engine marketing to supplement the usual marketing campaign and a pilot program by Admissions and Student Success that will present to students in 25 schools on how to successfully transition to college.

The trend of falling enrollment at USM stretches back across several years, but USM is not alone in this enrollment drop, though. In fact, the University of Maine System has reported that enrollment numbers are 3.9 percent lower than what the system budgeted for. The only exceptions are the UMaine and Fort Kent campuses, both of which reported numbers of one percent more than what was budgeted.