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USM combines student services for savings

USM officials have announced a plan to consolidate and centralize student services. They hope that this will cut costs and contribute to filling the gap of the budget deficit.
Sam Hill | The Free Press
USM officials have announced a plan to consolidate and centralize student services. They hope that this will cut costs and contribute to filling the gap of the budget deficit.

Posted on November 17, 2014 in News, Uncategorized
By Sam Hill

USM officials announced a plan to consolidate and centralize student services last Thursday, with aims to cut costs, recruit more students and increase retention.

Staff will begin to transition immediately, working to turn the efforts of 15 separate entities into a single, integrated division. The overall goal is to make student services easier to navigate for both enrolled and prospective students, as well as making sure all departments are on the same page.

Chris Quint, the executive director of public affairs, said that since he began working at USM this semester he’s heard students equate trying to access student success to a game of ping-pong.

“We found a lot of redundancy within the system,” said Quint. “There’s been no real theme, structure or strategic plan for recruiting and advising students for so long. And since there hasn’t been a plan, individuals across campus have taken it upon themselves to plan within their own department or office.”

Quint noted that most students are bounced between numerous outlets while enrolled, including general, major-specific and minor-specific advisors, and that the offices of undergraduate, graduate and professional and continuing education departments were all recruiting students separately.

“We need to constantly be talking to each other to make sure we’re all working toward the same goal,” said Quint.

Five advising positions and two administrative positions will be eliminated with the consolidation, but no one is being laid off. All but one position has been vacant and one administrator will be returning to a faculty position. Officials have launched a search for a vice president of enrollment management to lead the division.

The savings will amount in nearly half a million dollars after including the salary costs of the vice president position and will go directly toward USM’s projected fiscal year 16 deficit of $16 million.

The administration has repeatedly reported that dropping enrollment is a prominent factor in financial problems for the university and that this reorganization will likely help stop the drop.

“The charge of this new division is to more effectively serve students through one front door and to view all student service functions through the eyes of the student. We will eliminate the barriers that hinder our students’ ability to navigate their way to graduation,” read a letter from President David Flanagan and Provost Joseph McDonnell sent to the USM community last week.

According to Quint, USM typically loses one third of its freshman class each year. To help reduce that rate, each student will be assigned a faculty and professional mentor when they enroll to help guide them through the ins and outs of university life and transition.

An office of career development and community engagement will also be created through centralizing resources, which will allow the university to better connect students with internships and careers with local businesses. Quint said that through meetings with local businesses, officials have found that they aren’t looking for interns at USM simply because they don’t know where to post job openings on a USM website.

“Again, it’s something that individual departments might do well across the campus, but something we need to pull together and do well as an institution,” Quint said. “We hear so often from government officials and non-profits that they need students, but just don’t know how to get them from USM, so they look elsewhere.”

Quint says the division will be complete, organized and running efficiently before next fall.

“The concept is great and we’ve planned it well, but now it’s time for that hard work,” said Quint. “We want to be the one’s to do it right and if we can, this can really transform the university.

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