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UMaine calling for 157 positions to be cut

PORTLAND (WGME) -- For Maine's public universities, the numbers don't look promising. UMaine executives anticipate another year of declining enrollment. As a result, UMaine is calling for 157 positions to be cut across its seven campuses and in its central office.

When administrators at the University of Southern Maine took a look at the projected enrollment for the next school year, and the projected budget, they quickly realized they were going to be $14-million dollars short. Bob Caswell, USM Spokesman, says "There are some challenges that must be addressed. It's not a fabricated crisis whatsoever."

USM President Theodora Kalikow planned to cut three less popular majors and lay of 12 faculty members. But Kalikow rescinded those layoffs after student protests, opening the door for faculty to help find alternative ways to cut the budget.

Caswell says "The fact of the matter is we have an infrastructure here that is set up to serve more than 10,000 students.  And we're no longer an institution of 10,000 students."

USM found $4.5-million in savings on its own. And now, the UMaine System plans to tap into its $15-million dollar rainy day fund to help its seven universities. UMaine plans to give USM the lion's share of those funds, $7-million dollars, to help balance its budget for the coming school year.

Jerry LaSala, USM Faculty Senate Chair, says "There's not much doubt that we needed the lion's share of the rainy day fund." LaSala and a handful of other professors are working with President Kalikow to find a budget solution; one that doesn't include faculty layoffs.

Matt Brown, a USM Senior, says "I think cutting teachers will hurt the university in the long run.  I would say if anything they should cut some staff instead of teachers." And Hannah Allen, a USM Freshman, says "A lot of the professors that they have are really well known faculty.  And I feel like letting them go is only going to light a fire in the students even more."

Even with the rainy day funds, it still leaves a $2.5-million dollar budget gap that somehow must be closed. USM has stepped up its recruiting efforts, believing that more students would solve all these problems.

The UMaine Board of Trustees must still voted on tapping those rainy day funds. If they don't approve the release of the rainy day funds, USM will be back looking at a $9.5-million dollar budget shortfall for next school year.