Lower enrollment leaves University of Maine System with a $5 million budget gap

Nov. 14—The University of Maine System is facing a $5 million budget deficit because of lower-than-anticipated enrollment and residence hall occupancy at schools across the system.

To close the budget gap, schools are making plans to dig into reserves and remaining federal COVID relief funds, keep vacant teaching positions open, limit travel and other expenses and boost marketing campaigns. School leaders shared the details of their plans to make up for lost revenue at the University of Maine Board of Trustees meeting Monday morning.

Enrollment in the system's seven schools dropped 4.6 percent compared to last fall. In-state enrollment dropped 5.9 percent. As of Sunday, 17,193 in-state students and 24,617 students total were enrolled.

"This is still a concerning trend," Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Robert Placido said of the declines. "After all, we are public institutions and this is our primary mission to serve the citizens of the state."

Projected enrollment for the spring semester is not promising. Enrollment has dropped more than 15 percent this year compared to the same time last year. As of Sunday 10,656 students were enrolled in the system. Last year at this time 12,601 students were enrolled.

This decline in enrollment is a multi-year trend, with student numbers dropping every year for at least five years. There are almost 2,000 fewer students overall than in 2018, a 7 percent decrease.

The most significant drops in enrollment between 2021 and 2022 are at UMaine Fort Kent and UMaine Presque Isle.

Two bright spots are Canadian students and law school enrollment. Since 2018, the number of Canadian students enrolled in the UMaine System has almost doubled, from 95 students in Nov. 2018 to 186 students this year. Since 2021, the UMaine System has offered in-state tuition to Canadian students for attendance at the University of Maine Fort Kent and University of Maine Presque Isle. Law school enrollment has also risen in the past few years.

This story will continue to be updated.