UMaine feels the economic pinch

Tuition pressure
By DEIRDRE FULTON  |  November 19, 2008

The University of Maine system is being asked by the state to describe how it would cut $10.6 million from its budget — the equivalent of 5.3 percent of the state money it gets — on top of the $19.1 million in cuts imposed earlier this year. The UMaine board of trustees, which met on Sunday and Monday to discuss the potential cuts, cited national and statewide financial crises as the cause.

The UMaine system has lost its own investment revenue as a result of the national economic collapse. And the crumbling economy has led state economists to predict a shortfall of more than $100 million in the current fiscal year. Governor John Baldacci has set spending-curtailment targets for all state agencies and institutions.

Still, Chancellor Richard Pattenaude has "no plans at this point to seek a mid-year tuition increase, nor does he have any plans to put it on the table," according to UMaine spokesman John Diamond.

That seems difficult to believe, given that the university system has consistently raised tuition over the last few years in order to balance its budget. This year, for example, tuition rose an average of 10.9 percent for in-state undergraduate students. And a $500-million shortfall is already forecast for the next state-budget cycle, suggesting more cuts are on the way.

Diamond suggests that this time around, the cuts "are going to involve a combination of the approaches we've taken before," such as eliminating vacant positions, layoffs, cutting programs and activities, and increasing efficiency, as well as "some new approaches we haven't decided on yet." No word on whether that includes printing money.

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