April 22, 2018
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UMFK optimistic about future of University of Maine System

By Jen Lynds, BDN Staff

FORT KENT, Maine — Officials at the University of Maine at Fort Kent are optimistic the school can meet the challenges outlined in a new report from the chancellor of the University of Maine System so that the institution will continue to thrive in the future.

UMFK President Richard Cost said late last week that those who put together “The University of Maine System and the Future of Maine” draft report did a good job outlining goals for the future of the UMaine system.

The report, which is still subject to change, seeks to reduce spending, increase enrollment, and improve the quality of education at the system’s seven campuses and contains numerous recommendations for achieving each goal. The report is the product of the system’s six-month “New Challenges, New Directions” initiative launched in response to a projected $42.8 million budget shortfall in 2013.

“I think that there are goals in the report that we are already meeting and others that we can meet in the future,” Cost said. “It will be a challenge, but we can do it.”

Among the recommendations of the draft report are elimination of courses and programs with low enrollments, curtailment of employee compensation and benefits, centralization of administrative functions, strengthening of student aid, and greater use of distance learning technology.

Right now, Cost said, the campus is not looking at eliminating any courses.

“Twelve years ago, we did a study and did away with programs that were redundant or not popular,” he said. “I am pretty comfortable right now that all of our programs are working for us and our students.”

Cost pointed out that the campus has several courses that are growing in popularity, including its nursing, business and rural public safety administration courses. He pointed out that courses such as rural public safety administration are unique to the region and likely will attract more Aroostook County students in the future.

Right now, Cost said, approximately 30 percent of its courses are offered online. The university will continue to work to find the “perfect balance” of online and classroom-only courses, he added.

Along with streamlining services, Cost said, the report ultimately could lead to measures being put in place so that all of the UMS campuses work more closely together.

“I think that in the future, we are going to be much more engaged in dialogue with our colleagues at our campuses across the state,” he said. “Historically, we at UMFK have thought of ourselves as isolated, as one institution way up here. Now, I believe we will be asking ourselves, ‘How can we solve this together?’

“The more we can think of ourselves as one system working to meet the needs of all of our students, the better off everyone will be,” Cost continued.

This week, members of the University of Maine System board of trustees will hold public comment sessions at UMFK and the University of Maine at Presque Isle as they finish a plan.

The UMPI session will be held 12:30 to 2 p.m. Thursday in the Campus Center. The UMFK session will be held 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Friday in Nadeau Hall Teleconference Room.



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