After years of struggling financially, the University of Maine Machias may become a satellite college of UMaine Orono under a proposal being considered Monday by system trustees.

The move would cut administrative salaries because it would eliminate the need for a campus president and other administrative positions.

The proposal calls for Machias “to become a college or branch campus of UMaine, with an executive campus head/dean at Machias and administrative services and overall academic leadership provided from UMaine,” according to board materials posted online.

The report itself was not available Thursday, according to system spokesman Dan Demeritt.

Officials set off this process in April, announcing that the Machias campus was “neither financially nor operationally viable” on its own.

Monday’s report was written by a task force composed of both campus presidents, representatives from both campuses’ board of visitors, the system’s general counsel, a trustee, a senior system official and a facilitator.

The full board of trustees will review the plan at its regularly scheduled meeting at the University of Southern Maine on Monday, but will not take any formal action. Officials plan to hold campus and community meetings at Machias and in the Down East region over the next two months before the trustees vote on the proposal in March.

The Down East campus, about 100 miles east of Orono, has 745 students, a 20 percent drop from five years earlier – and a smaller population than several Maine high schools. The campus has 94 employees, including two administrators and 28 full-time faculty members.

Machias has a roughly $9 million annual budget, and in recent years has needed up to $1 million in emergency system funds to balance its budget. The campus also faces enrollment challenges, because of a 31 percent decline in the number of students graduating from Washington County high schools since 2007.

System Chancellor James Page has previously described the proposal as a partnership that will benefit students by expanding academic opportunities with UMaine while cutting costs. Some Machias professors hold graduate appointments at UMaine already, and the two campuses partnered in 2014 to have UMaine Orono handle financial-aid management for Machias.

Academically, integration proposals include new “four-plus-one” programs, which means Machias graduates could attend Orono for one year and graduate with both an undergraduate and a masters degree. Other programs may become “two-plus-two” programs, where a student attends Machias for the first two years of their undergraduate work, then goes to Orono for the final two years.

Machias faculty members have not seen the report, but understand why the changes are being considered, said Assistant Professor Uriah Anderson, the UMaine Machias faculty representative to the trustees.

“We recognize the extent of the problems,” Anderson said Thursday. “I’m not sure cautiously optimistic is the right phrase because opinions vary, but there wasn’t any outrage. It wasn’t a big surprise.”

Academically, the 243-acre UMaine Machias has branded itself as “Maine’s Coastal University,” emphasizing programs tied to the region’s economy, including marine biology, psychology and community studies, the book arts, and environmental recreation and tourism management.

Anderson said the faculty expect that they will still report to a Machias-based administrator or dean, who will report to UMaine President Sue Hunter.

In recent years, the system has been moving toward greater integration throughout the seven-campus system, part of a decision to move toward working as a single, unified system instead of seven distinct universities overseen by one central office.

Over the last several years the system has integrated several back-office functions across the system, including human relations, information technology, purchasing and financial systems, and has closed the central office in Bangor and relocated administrative units to various campuses.

Machias has already farmed out many back-office functions, but could work with UMaine on consolidating such areas as alumni relations, development, institutional research, student records and managing athletics.

When Page announced changes as part of the “One University” initiative, he emphasized that none of the campuses would be closed.

There have been long-standing debates about the structure of the seven-campus system, which is dominated by the two largest campuses – Orono and University of Southern Maine, which have about 18,000 students between them. The smaller campuses at Augusta, Farmington, Machias, Presque Isle and Fort Kent collectively enroll fewer than 10,000 students.

Responding to concerns that smaller campuses might close, lawmakers in 2005 updated state statutes spelling out that the system is made up of seven universities “located and named” in the current seven communities, including Machias. Demeritt said Thursday that system officials do not think the proposed changes need legislative approval and are in line with the system charter and state law because the plan “maintains a public university in Machias.”

The total annual cost of room and board, tuition and fees at UMaine is $20,012 for in-state students and $37,382 for out-of-state students. At UMaine Machias it is $15,946 for in-state students and $27,766 for out-of-state students. Whether UMaine Machias tuition would change under the proposal is unclear.

Noel K. Gallagher can be reached at 791-6387 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: noelinmaine

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