GORHAM – New University of Southern Maine President Glenn Cummings said improving fall enrollment figures mean there will not be any layoffs at the campus this year.

In his first major address to more than 500 faculty and staff members, he said that earlier projections showed fall 2015 enrollment could be down 13 percent, but it has since closed to about 6 percent – improving the school’s financial standing.

“I’ll be honest, the first day I was a little bit nervous,” said Cummings, who took office two months ago. “USM is like an ugly 1970s carpet and you lift it up, and there’s this beautiful hardwood floor underneath. I’m not kidding you. We have every possible asset to succeed.”

At the annual welcome breakfast at the Gorham campus, he also acknowledged the “painful” cuts last year. Last year, officials eliminated five academic programs and 51 faculty positions because of budget cuts.

“We have to be real about the pain we’ve experienced. We lost 119 people in one year,” Cummings said. USM has a $128 million budget for the year beginning July 1.

Cummings, the former speaker of the Maine House, emphasized his work to rebuild trust with students and faculty following the deep spending cuts already made.

Cummings, who most recently served as interim president of UMaine-Augusta, said he plans three initiatives to improve enrollment numbers: stemming the dropout rate at USM, improving outreach to high school students and strengthening marketing, particularly to out-of-state students.

The system’s current $518 million budget that began in July uses $7 million in emergency funds despite cutting 206 positions systemwide. Last year’s $529 million budget, which ended June 30, required using $11.4 million in emergency funds and cutting 157 positions.

This story will be updated.

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