If the taxpayer-supported University of Maine System were a student, it would be repeating the semester. According to a report released today by The Maine Heritage Policy Center (MHPC) and the American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA), the University of Maine System received failing grades in General Education, Intellectual Diversity, Board Governance, and Cost and Effectiveness.
The report, Made in Maine: A State Report Card on Public Higher Education, examined University System-generated reports and data, student surveys, and learning results and course offerings for the seven campuses comprising the University System to subscribe a Pass, Fail or Incomplete grade for the four areas. Specific categories within the four key areas were also graded.
“Our taxpayer-supported University of Maine System clearly needs improvement,” said MHPC Chief Executive Officer Tarren Bragdon. “From high tuition and low graduation rates to academic freedom to board governance, the UMaine System is failing Maine students and Maine taxpayers.”
Because of lax course requirements in several core areas at each campus, public higher education in Maine fails to provide students with a general understanding of seven core subject areas: composition, literature, language, U.S. government or history, economics, mathematics, and natural or physical science.
While every campus within the University of Maine System requires at least one course in English Composition and one in Natural or Physical Science, none require courses in more than three of the seven core subjects. Only Orono and Fort Kent require students to take a course in college-level mathematics, and only Augusta requires a literature course.
The report also explains that undergraduate tuition and fees in Maine have been growing rapidly in recent years, with an increasing percentage of spending going to administration. From 2004-2009, in-state tuition and fees increased an average of 35 percent. In fact, University of Maine tuition and fees are now well above the national average for four-year public institutions. At the same time, graduation rates remain very low, with less than a third of students graduating on time, and barely half finishing within six years.
With regard to Governance, grades are split. The University of Maine System earns a passing grade for Board Structure and Transparency of Operations, but fails in Board Accomplishments.
The report notes that the University of Maine Board of Directors operates, generally speaking, in a transparent manner, with easily accessible board minutes, advance notice of regular meetings, and bylaws and policies posted online.
The board fails in Board Accomplishments, however, with no specific actions taken in the last two years to improve academic quality. Further, throughout the 27 months of board activities studied, there is no record of any board-initiated activities to assess effectiveness or academic quality. The board has also served as a rubber stamp, unanimously approving every construction project, real estate transaction and purchasing contract put before it, and, in most cases, authorizing spending decisions made during sub-committee meetings less than 24 hours later.
“Our students aren’t being prepared for real world challenges after college. Taxpayers are funding failure in several important areas,” Bragdon said. “It is critical Maine enact major reforms to our UMaine System to end these unacceptable practices and once again provide high quality public higher education in Maine.”
CLICK HERE to download the full report (PDF), or view it below.