‘Road map’ for increasing University of Maine System enrollment presented to trustees

Posted Sept. 19, 2011, at 7:12 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — A preliminary plan for meeting and overcoming the enrollment challenges the University of Maine System will face in the next decade was presented Monday to the system’s board of trustees.

It is the first time systemwide enrollment planning has been tried, according to Chancellor Richard Pattenaude.

The Strategic Enrollment Plan is based on data received in August 2010 in “The Study of Pricing, Markets and Enrollment Management Practices,” prepared by a national consultant.

“The plan will provide university leadership with a ‘road map’ for challenges in enrollment in upcoming years,” Pattenaude said. “Previous enrollment planning was campus-specific. This first-time, integrated approach will help in increasing the number of adults currently enrolled at the system.”

Each of the seven campuses within the system has developed its own plan to increase enrollment. The University of Maine at Farmington is an exception as it limits enrollment to 2,000 students.

The study identified opportunities for potential growth in online and distance learning, transfer students from the Maine Community College System, out-of-state and international students, and residents with some college credit who have not earned degrees.

Just 12 percent of community college graduates transfer to the four-year state colleges and universities to earn bachelor’s degrees, the chancellor said. The system already has made progress in implementing a key strategy related to the enrollment plan in its development of an online learning strategy through the system’s OnlineMaine portal, the chancellor said.

“We are rapidly adding online programs and now offer 35 online programs,” Pattenaude said. “In 18 months we’ve more than doubled the number of online programs that we offer, which was one of our key goals. These efforts will ensure that Maine has the educated work force that it needs to achieve economic health and vitality.”

The biggest obstacles the system faces include the aging of Maine’s population in tandem with a projected decline in the number of students graduating from high school, and the cost of tuition coupled with an expected decline in money available through federal grants.

The plan strongly suggested that financial aid be increased in support of enrollment development and that the system develop a plan for dealing with decreased federal aid.

The road map calls for a systemwide new student enrollment increase of 6 percent by 2015. Preliminary figures showed that the number of students enrolled fell from 32,000 in the fall of 2010 to 31,500 in this fall semester.

In other business, trustees approved the implementation of recommendations from a task force on employee health care, according to Peggy Markson, spokeswoman for the system. The recommendations would affect designated groups of employees and include health improvement, communications and education, as well as quality, cost and payment reform, she said in a press release issued after Monday’s meeting.

“Reducing the cost trend for the group health plan is essential to the financial sustainability of UMS,” Tracy Bigney, chief human resources officer, told trustees. “In addition to the financial issues, the well-being of our employees is essential to workplace morale and productivity.”

The trustees’ next meeting will be Nov. 13-14 at the University of Southern Maine in Portland.

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