USM Free Press News Feed
The University of Maine System board of trustees has voted once again to freeze in-state tuition for the fourth year in a row leaving students, faculty and staff wondering what this means for the future of USM.
According to Dan Demeritt, the UMaine system director of public affairs, students can expect Maine’s college tuition to be one of the most affordable in New England.
“It’s critical that the government is making an investment and that the board of trustees is using that to keep tuition flat so it doesn’t get harder for families to finance a college degree,” said Demeritt. “The hope is that as a public institution, it reduces financial barriers for students as well as potential students and reduces indebtedness once students graduate.”
Although other public institutions across the country have increased their tuition by 17 percent over the past four years, Demeritt explained that college competition is higher than ever and believes low tuition is an enticing factor for potential students.
“We’re seeing that the amount of high school students graduating has diminished by almost 20 percent over the past few years,” said Demeritt. “It’s a combination of that and competition between other universities – our customer pool has shrunk and we have more competition.”
Chris Quint, USM’s public affairs director, believes that affordability is a major problem across the country, similarly saying that this issue can be linked to the low high school graduate demographics and the competition between universities.
“We have to do everything we can to be affordable and accessible,” said Quint. “The action the board of trustees took was a positive one in that direction.”
By giving students the confidence that their tuition bill will not increase, Quint said that in-state students can be expected to spend only $8,000 for the school year and out of state students with room and board costs can expect to spend about $20,000.
“We’re one of the better deals in the northeast here at USM,” explained Quint. “Portland is one of the most desirable cities in the northeast and we’re right in the heart of it. We have everything we need to be successful here, we just have to sell it to students.”
Junior finance major Amelia Worthing said that with all the faculty cuts that USM has seen over the past year, the tuition freeze will hopefully bring more students into the university and allow for our budget goals to be met so that more cuts can be avoided.
“The only reason that it’s hard to afford college is because we’re young and we don’t really know how to manage our money yet,” said Worthing. “I bet a lot of us would actually be able to afford our tuition a lot easier if we could manage our money more effectively.”
Worthing also believes that this scenario can also be applied to the university, saying that if USM could properly manage funds then perhaps they wouldn’t need to make the cuts.
To combat USM’s recent fiscal issues and bring more students through the door, Quint said that not only do they have to modernize recruitment strategies but they also want to improve how they market and talk about the university.
“It really comes down to recruiting more students,” said Quint. “We’re hoping that by being a metropolitan university, we will open up enticing opportunities for current and prospective students not only in the classroom but in the community.”
With the arrival of USM’s new president Dr. Harvey Kesselman, Quint also explained that the future of USM is in good hands because he has raised a university from the ashes of financial debt once before.
“When he started as Executive President at Stockton University, they were very much in the same situation as we are,” said Quint. “Along with their faculty and administration, Kesselman was able to turn it around to the point now where they are thriving. I know he can do that for USM.”
Demeritt said that as each university takes the proper action to combat financial issues and the University of Maine System promises to provide Maine’s strongest commitments to affordability. The individuals who voted for the tuition freeze recognize that.
“It really is all about the students,” said Demeritt. “We want to be an option for everyone and that’s why its so important to keep the tuition down.”
There was an event scheduled last Friday for students to meet and learn more about their peers running positions within student government, but no one attended, not even the candidates.
After an email was sent to the USM Events listings confirming the event on Tuesday, it was rescheduled for Monday, but no official notice of the change was posted on university or student government websites or social media accounts.
In an email on Friday evening, student senate vice chair Tom Bahun told the Free Press that an email was supposed to have been sent out by either Dean of Students Joy Pufhal or student life director Jason Saucier.
“The elections committee and the student body president asked to consolidate the Friday event with the Monday event to make a stronger one,” said Saucier in an email on Friday evening. “Unfortunately we did not get a correction out on the e-mail list.”
Within an hour after the event was sent to begin, not a single student wandered into the area where the event was supposed to take place. USM tech support employees had set-up equipment in preparation for the event, but packed up after an hour when no one arrived. They had not been notified of a cancellation.
Senate Chair Judson Cease and Parliamentarian Joshua Tharpe did not respond to emails asking for information sent Friday evening.
Nominations Closed, polls open
This year’s presidential race is between four candidates, including current members of the student government.
Rebecca Tanous, current student body vice president and senior chemistry and education major, is running with junior chemistry major Matthew Creisher.
“I truly believe that this position is where I can best serve the students,” wrote Tanous in her election bio. “Having been a member of the Student Government Association for two full years, I feel confident in my knowledge of how the SGA functions and am passionate on utilizing it to better aid the students.”
The pair list improving USM’s marketing efforts, improving connections between students, faculty and administrators and student organization groups as key issues they hope to focus on.
“Being a transfer student, I have a vested interest in how this University represents itself to those that are potentially interested in enrolling,” wrote Creisher. “As vice president I would be able to work closely with students and faculty members in order to bring about changes to the schools advertising system; in order to showcase a more welcoming and inviting front to those looking into the school.”
Senator John Jackson, a political science and business management major, is running for president with economics major Mackenzie McHatton as his vice president. Information on the candidates’ academic standing was not provided.
“As a Student Senator here at USM this past year, especially during the rollercoaster of an academic year we’ve had, I have not only established relationships with the people that are in the most influential of positions around the University thus allowing me to get tasks done, but I have also have first-hand experience with the requirements and commitments of the position of Student Body President,” wrote Jackson. “I believe that Mackenzie and I are the individuals that can help bring and be able to ensure that the voice of the student body is heard among the faculty, administration and the board of trustees on any subject that the student body wants its opinions voiced.”
Jackson noted that student involvement in university governance, parking problems on campus, university marketing and pushing the metropolitan university model as issues he would tackle.
The final runners for the president’s office are sophomore political science and criminology major Paul McGuire and junior leadership and organizational studies major Camden Ege.
“We are passionate about USM and it’s future,” reads their election bio page. “We recognize that this is an important time in shaping the University and we want the opportunity to do that responsibly.”
Their goals include improving communication across the board at USM and helping students better represent themselves in the surrounding community.
Junior psychology and criminology major Derrick Kennedy is running solo.
“ I want to be Student Body President because I have a voice,” wrote Kennedy,” and I, like many of the students of USM, recognize what the issues are, and believe that I have a powerful enough voice to be heard and to make a difference in bringing about a much needed change.”
Kennedy lists improving student resources on the path to graduation as his one presidential goal. His hobbies include hiking, mountain biking and weight lifting, according to his profile.
Only 13 candidates for the student senate are on the ballot and the senate has 21 seats to fill. It looks like the race for those positions will be completely uncontested this year.
This year’s referendum questions look for student input on adjusting the hours of the Gorham café and Woodbury café to better accommodate late classes, athletics. Another topic up for debate is expanding the Saturday mall bus run to also include stopping at places like Walmart and Target and increasing the frequency of the late-night bus to the Old Port.
The SGA has scheduled a ‘meet the candidates’ event for Monday at 1 p.m. in the Woodbury Campus Center. There will be a debate between the candidates for student body president.
Polls open at 1:30 p.m. and student can vote online through the SGA page on USM’s website.