Building a Sustainable Future for UMM

Machias, Maine – The University of Maine at Machias is in the midst of an academic turnaround in response to ongoing enrollment struggles and the current economic recession. It is no secret that over the past decade, this campus has struggled with the same budget and enrollment problems that plague all small public universities.

UMM's academic turnaround was launched during the summer of 2007, starting with elimination of significant budget overruns in auxiliary operations and the launch of a new brand and niche for the University. Academic turnarounds tend to occur sequentially in three overlapping areas: financial stability, marketing and branding, and academic revitalization. Eighteen months into its turnaround, UMM is heavily engaged in all three of these areas.

(1)    Financial Stability — UMM's budgeted deficit for 2008-09 is the smallest in several years. A balanced budget is projected for 2009-10 although that has required significant reductions in personnel and other expenses. University budgets can no longer be built on the expectation of significant increases in enrollment, tuition revenue, and State funding. If UMM were to do nothing to reduce base operating expenses, which are almost 80% in personnel, the school would face a cumulative gap of $4 million over the next four years. In order to help address that problem, several personnel changes will take place in the coming weeks. These changes, along with others made over the past year, will save the University approximately $1 million annually. UMM also will continue to pursue new and expanded revenue streams.

(2)    Marketing and Branding — In September 2007, UMM launched a new Environmental Liberal Arts (ELA) brand, blending its liberal arts heritage with the environmental emphasis explicit in the University's mission and rural, coastal location. As New England's only public ELA college, and as one of only four public residential baccalaureate institutions in the entire country with fewer than 1,000 students, UMM is now well positioned to take full advantage of this unique niche.

(3)    Academic Revitalization — UMM is also engaged in substantive, transformational change to the curriculum that takes full advantage of the growing financial stability and newly emerging brand of the institution. Some of UMM's curriculum is already evolving to better fit its ELA brand and environmental mission. For example, the faculty recently approved renaming the recreation degree program as Environmental Recreation and Tourism Management because of the program's new emphasis on environmental stewardship and sustainability. Development of the "Machias Experience", including an updated general education curriculum, will further reinforce the University's environmental focus.

Initial results indicate that the University is on the right track. From the 2006-07 academic year to 2008-09, UMM decreased its budget deficit from $482,000 to $123,000. During that time, the number of full-time students and degree-seeking students each increased by 4%, while 1st-year out-of-state students climbed by 38%.

"We are becoming more academically focused, more financially efficient, and more attractive to prospective students," said President Cynthia Huggins. "We have remarkably dedicated faculty, staff, alumni, and students who care deeply about the future of this university."

The University of Maine at Machias looks forward to its next hundred years as New England's only public Environmental Liberal Arts college.

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