By Jeffrey Ahlquist, USM ’19
The name change of the University of Southern Maine to the University of Maine Portland will only be implemented if the studies being conducted suggest that the enrollment of out-of-state students will have greater benefit than the cost of undergoing a name change. If the research shows that the return on investment will be plentiful, I’m pro name change. I’d like to share why and add perspective to some of the concerns I’ve been hearing from my peers. If The Free Press is willing to have me back, I’ll gladly respond to the feedback I receive and answer questions.
I think the idea of having the city of Portland in our school’s name will catch the eye of prospective students from all over the country. Forbes, along with several other major outlets, has ranked Portland on their top 10 list for up and coming cities. We’re ranked nationally in the top 10 on several lists for best food, as well as one of the most progressive cities in the U.S. These are all attractive qualities for the type of student USM is interested in. While Portland is in the southern Maine region, out-of-staters may not make the connection that Portland is included in that. So, that’s just another benefit.
The name change will be expensive, but there’s potential that the revenue coming in from out-of-state students would pay for many of the headaches students often have to deal with. I’m sure you know none of the problems we have can be fixed overnight. Enhanced occupancy in Gorham housing, terrible parking in Portland (both are signs of growth), and recovering from the massive layoff the school underwent a few years ago are all things that need to be addressed. To do so, we need money. The school gets money when more students enroll. The school gets even more money when student enroll from out of state. The name change wouldn’t be an immediate solution, but if in 10 or maybe 15 years enrollment goes up because of the huge face lift and attractions being added to the Portland campus, all of those things can be changed.
Even if right this moment the school started building new dorms, making new parking lots, hiring new professors and creating new academic departments, I can promise you that no current student would be here long enough to see each of these things be completed before the time any of us graduate. I haven’t heard a single idea of how to fix these issues right this moment, or even in the next two years. The name change is an investment in the future of our school. Just like new dorms, new art centers etc. Knowing that we can’t fix these problems now means that we need to find ways to avoid these struggles in the future.
I’m not sure if the data will show that enrollment of out of state students will increase dramatically with the name change. If it doesn’t, then the school will move on to the next idea. If the research does suggest that the school will get an influx of students resulting in more funds for better facilities, scholarships, better parking, more programs etc. then this would be a missed opportunity if the school doesn’t take it. Name changes can mean the start of something major, something even monumental. You may never have heard of a brand called Blue Ribbon Sports, that’s because they go by Nike now.