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The University of Southern Maine is dropping efforts to change its name to the University of Maine at Portland.
The Legislature was due to consider a bill rename the university, which has campuses in Portland, Gorham and Lewiston during its coming winter session. But the bill’s sponsor, state Sen. Nathan Libby, D-Lewiston, has withdrawn the bill at the university’s request, said USM spokesman Dan Hartill.
The name change was expected to cost the university system $1.2 million, according to school officials.
“The timeline is being restructured,” Dan Hartill said. “This has been done with communication of Glenn Cummings and the chancellor of the UMaine system.”
The University of Maine System’s trustees approved the request to change USM’s name at their November meeting. USM President Glenn Cummings told trustees during a September meeting that including the name of Maine’s largest city could prove a draw to more students.
“We’re the only one that doesn’t match the rest of the system,” he said to the board. “This isn’t about losing money. This is about making money for the stability of the university and the stability of the University of Maine System.”
At the meeting, Cummings said many of Maine’s biggest businesses supported the name change. He said having the positive association with Maine’s biggest city in the university name would help attract out-of-state students and would help grow enrollment at the university.
Enrollment at USM has grown 9 percent over the past five years, according to university system enrollment figures. But the recent growth followed a number of years of enrollment declines. In 2014, USM cut 51 faculty positions and eliminated several academic programs to address a budget shortfall.
Cummings has spent the past year touting the proposed name change, which would have taken effect in the fall of 2021. He said early this year that marketing research the university had done showed potential students and guidance counselors favorably viewed having Portland in the university’s name.
The institution has been called the University of Southern Maine since 1978, after eight years using the name University of Maine at Portland-Gorham. Before that, the Gorham and Portland campuses were separate schools, Gorham State College and the University of Maine at Portland. Other names used by the two campuses over the years included Portland University, Portland Junior College and Gorham State Teachers College.