PORTLAND, Maine — In an effort to centralize services, cut costs and attract and retain more students, University of Southern Maine President David Flanagan announced Thursday the consolidation of several departments and the creation of a new vice president for enrollment management position.
“We have issues with recruiting and retention,” Flanagan said. “Our first job here is to try to stabilize the financial situation and put ourselves on a financially sustainable basis.”
To do that, he proposed a plan in October to eliminate 50 faculty positions and two academic programs, which would account for $6 million of the $16 million the university plans to cut from its budget this year. The University of Maine System’s board of trustees approved the academic program cuts two weeks later.
“We also know that cutting alone is not enough,” Flanagan continued in a phone interview on Thursday morning. “We have to undertake a number of reforms and address longtime issues that have been problematic for us in the past.”
Those issues include the university’s declining enrollment and difficulty retaining students.
Of the 823 full-time undergraduate students who entered the freshman class at USM in 2012, 67 percent progressed to their second year, according to data provided by the university’s office of institutional research. Going back further, only about one-third of undergraduates who entered in 2007 graduated from USM within six years.
“They lose out on career opportunities and are stuck with their student loans,” Flanagan said, adding that the general population also loses because “we haven’t got people with the proper credentials.”
To address those problems, Flanagan will add a vice president of enrollment management, who will be paid $135,000 to oversee financial services, admissions, advising, student life and athletics. The position will be paid for by eliminating two other administrative positions: an assistant vice president who works with the chief financial officer and an associate provost. The vice president is retiring, and the associate provost will be returning to the faculty.
The new vice president will be responsible for recruiting students, with an emphasis on increasing the portion of students who come from out-of-state, much like the position that was held by Jimmy Jung at the University of Maine.
Jung left UMaine earlier this fall, and Flanagan said the two universities will recruit collaboratively, though the positions at the two universities will be held by different people.
Flanagan also will consolidate various divisions at USM.
Three admissions departments, which recruited separately for undergraduate, graduate and nontraditional students, will become one department.
Various student advising organizations — Flanagan said there are about 15 — also will be consolidated into one, as will career services, which the president said would mean students and businesses will have a one-stop-shop whether they are looking for jobs or trying to partner with the university to create an internship program.
Five jobs will be eliminated as a result of these consolidation efforts, though that will not result in layoffs because some positions were vacant and the other staff members are retiring, according to Chris Quint, director of public affairs.
The university expects to save $500,000 by consolidating these departments and eliminating the two administrative positions. Flanagan stressed that the changes are an investment that should result in more students coming to and staying at USM, which means more revenue.
USM still has to find $10 million in savings this year, which the president has said will happen through cuts in administration. They expect to announce those cuts in December.