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Some UMaine campuses may tap reserve funds and federal money to help make up for low enrollment

University of Maine
Town of Orono
University of Maine

Some of Maine's public university campuses may rely on federal money and reserve funds to help make up for lower-than-projected enrollment this fall.

The University of Maine System is reporting that credit hour enrollment is down about 6%, compared to original budget projections from earlier this year. That's led to lower tuition revenue at several campuses.

University officials said that some of that shortfall would be offset by lower expenses due to staff attrition.

"We feel this is still a controllable situation. We are looking at slowing some projects down, or deferring them for another year," University of Maine at Augusta Interim President Joe Szakas told the system's finance committee at a meeting on Wednesday.

Szakas said the campus is working on additional marketing for the spring, and is also seeing savings from vacant positions. The school is also proposing to transfer about a million dollars of reserves to help stabilize the budget.

Meanwhile, the University of Southern Maine and the University of Maine at Fort Kent are proposing to use hundreds of thousands of dollars in federal relief funds, as well.

While the committee approved the budget changes, Trustee Barbara Alexander said that the use of one-time funds could pose problems further down the line.

"So that suggests a structural type of defect, or deficit, that needs a bigger discussion, than just filling up the temporary sort of things that might occur with a larger fuel oil bill, or something like that," Alexander said.

The university system's full board will vote on the budget changes at a meeting next month.