UMaine-Augusta letter to faculty, staff

Posted March 18, 2014, at 6:57 p.m.

Dear students, faculty, staff, alumni and friends of UMA:

A few weeks back I sent a series of communications out to the UMA community that our university would need to make close to $3 million in budget reductions to address a $36 million University of Maine System structural shortfall. Moreover, if the State Legislature significantly reduces appropriations for higher education, we may need to cut even deeper.

Every university in the System has been undertaking a process of identifying reductions to address their respective shortfalls, all designed to keep our public universities sustainable, affordable, and positioned to meet the needs of Maine students into the future. With respect to affordability, the System’s Board of Trustees has already expressed its intention to freeze tuition rates for a third year in a row.

As I said in my previous communications, making substantial budget cuts is not something we wanted to do, but rather something we had to do. Though it has been a painful and difficult process, we do feel confident we have identified reductions that will minimize the impact on our students, and will enable UMA to continue providing a high quality education at the lowest tuition rate in Maine for a bachelor’s degree.

Tomorrow, UMA’s Vice President of Finance and Administration Tim Brokaw will be reviewing our proposed Fiscal Year 2015 budget at an open President’s Forum. Titled, “Positioning UMA for a Sustainable Future,” this March 19th budget forum will take place from 11:00 AM to 1:00 PM in Jewett Hall. Seating may fill up for this forum, so if you want to attend in person, you may need to arrive early. The forum will also be web-streamed.

In advance of the forum I want to review how we went about the process of identifying reductions, and let you know some of the major decisions we have reached.

Over the past several weeks, budget leaders have been meeting to identify possible academic and non-academic programs and services to cut, and to explore their impact on our students. Information has been shared along the way with the President’s Cabinet, President’s Advisory Committee and Faculty Senate, as well as with other faculty, staff, student, and community leaders.

As mentioned in my previous communications, our decision-making has been driven by the following criteria:

— First and foremost, does a program and its associated costs meet our students’ needs?

— Does a program and its associated costs meet our baccalaureate mission?

— Is there an opportunity to partner with a sister university to provide a similar – or even improved – service or program?

— Is there a way to deliver a service or program through greater efficiencies?

— Can we deliver administrative efficiencies through position combinations, eliminations or reductions in work schedule?

— Does a program or service need to be staffed all 12 months of the year?

— Can we secure savings by reducing our facility footprint?

From this intense and difficult process, the following major decisions have been reached:

— UMA will be recommending the phase-out of its Associates degree in Nursing program.The program will continue to enroll students from its existing waitlist until the list is depleted. All current and waitlisted students will be given an opportunity to graduate from the program.

— Although our Associate degree in Nursing program is slated for phase-out, UMA will maintain its strong commitment to nursing education. We will retain our Bachelor Completion Program in Nursing for RNs. We are also finalizing an innovative agreement with the University of Fort Kent to offer a Bachelor’s degree in Nursing that will include RN training. We are very excited about this program, which will be better tailored to meeting the emerging needs of the nursing profession. We hope to be accepting our first class to this new UMA-Fort Kent program in the coming academic year.

— This is the type of creative partnership that we will be constantly exploring in the coming years to take advantage of the strengths of our different public universities to better meet the needs of all Maine students in these challenging economic times.

— UMA will be recommending the phase-out of its Associates degree in Veterinary Technology program. UMA will be accepting new applications to the program through the spring of 2015. Current UMA students enrolled in the pre-vet tech program will be considered for admittance into the program for this coming fall and the fall of 2015. All current and incoming students enrolled in the program by the fall of 2015 will be given an opportunity to graduate from the program.

— The budgets of most administrative offices are being cut, including the reduction or elimination of several staff positions.

— “Live” summer courses on the Bangor campus will only be offered during the first summer session. Online, ITV and polycom courses will continue to be offered on the Bangor campus throughout the rest of the summer. In conjunction with this change, summer staffing on the Bangor campus will be reduced.

— We are suspending several current faculty searches and will be selectively filling other faculty vacancies.

— Food service on the Augusta campus will be reduced, with a likely outcome of limited hours and a smaller menu.

— Our athletics program will be scaled back, and we will no longer be offering men’s and women’s soccer.

— We are reducing the facility size of the University College Center in Bath/Brunswick and are proposing a reduction in facility size for the Saco Center.

These collective changes translate into the elimination or reduction of a number of UMA positions. We could not avoid this. With over 75% of our budget dedicated to compensation and benefits, it would have been impossible to make nearly $3 million in cuts without adversely affecting faculty and staff. Below is a breakdown on the number of positions affected:

— UMA will be eliminating 24 full-time and part-time positions for this coming fiscal year. There will be ten actual layoffs. The remaining 14 positions are currently vacant or will become vacant due to retirements.

— Thirty-three additional staff will have their hours reduced or will have their positions changed from full-year to less than full year.

— In terms of employee FTE, there will be 19.2 fewer positions at UMA next year than there are today: 5.5 of these are faculty positions and 13.7 are staff positions; 12.5 of these positions are on the Augusta campus, 4.9 positions are on the Bangor campus, and 1.8 positions are part of University College.

Affected employees have all been informed. These are all valued people who will be truly missed, and I greatly regret that we needed to make these changes.

All students affected by the program cuts are being notified and provided with opportunities to ask questions. We want to make sure our students understand the changes and know that we are here to help them in every way we can to ensure they graduate with their desired degree.

Although this has been a painful process, I am confident we have made the right decisions to keep UMA sustainable and a continuing leader in educating students of every age, in every corner of the state with a high quality education at an affordable cost.

Thank you for your support along the way and for understanding that these changes needed to happen in the best interests of our students, our future, and our responsibility to meet the needs of the state.

Allyson Handley

President

University of Maine at Augusta

 

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