Stabilization Funds to Close $2.3M Deficit

Swift action from UMPI’s president and faculty helped soften a blow to the campus’s pocketbook. Thanks to an increase in student enrollment and help from the University of Maine System, UMPI is back on track to a stabilized budget.

UMPI overcame a few years’ trend of decreased enrollment last fall when it began to see an uptick in student numbers. But that span of decreased enrollment led to a $2.3 million deficit. In the past, the campus has weathered revenue shortfalls by using internal funds. But for the 2015-2016 academic year UMPI has sought assistance from the UMS stabilization fund. This is a first for the Presque Isle campus, according to Chris Bell, campus operations officer.

Erin Benson, director of admissions, blames a decrease in population throughout the state, among other factors, for the dip in enrollment. And she attributes the recent increase in students to research from marketing firm Royall and Company. UMPI hired it to help in fall of 2014.

“The best thing about working with them is the research,” Benson said.

Royall and Company advised the campus with insights on better student name purchasing from services like CollegeBoard. This allowed UMPI to make better choices when sending out information about the campus to prospective students.

Then there’s that shortfall to deal with. The campus missed its revenue projections in the fall of 2013 and continued to struggle in 2014 and 2015.

“Fiscal 2014 was problematic,” Bell said. “We had a shortfall of $1.4 million, which came out of reserves.”

The last fiscal shortfall in 2015 was even greater and that’s when Bell said UMPI’s President Linda Schott stepped in to get a handle on the problem. In total, about $3.7 million in reserves were used, which left the campus with approximately $1 million remaining in reserves.

“We’re running a little light,” Bell said.

In response to the lack in funds, the campus tightened its belt and reduced spending on travel and supplies and materials so as to not hurt any programs, according to chief business officer, Ben Shaw.

“There was no push back (from staff),” Shaw said.

The UMS has also stepped in to help UMPI reduce its financial footprint by increasing its overall density. Campus faculty are moving from Normal Hall to South Hall and other parts of the campus essentially taking one building “offline,” according to Bell.

Even though the campus faced digging itself out of the red, it still budgeted for maintaining infrastructure. Updates were made in 2015 to what is now the Center for Innovative Learning. Rather than put the improvements aside and wait, Shaw said, “If we don’t do something now we’ll be paying more in the long run.” He went on to say the campus wants to continue to be effective, despite the shortfall, and that upgrades are part of a larger plan.

If fiscal year 2015-2016 goes according to UMPI’s budget plan, the UMS will release the necessary funds to help close the $2.3 million gap. And that will put the campus in a much stronger place financially.