AUGUSTA (AP) – The chancellor of the University of Maine System said one of the goals of a restructuring plan that could be adopted as early as this September is to end rivalries and increase cooperation within the system.

“We want to break down the barriers of people looking down on each other,” Chancellor Joseph Westphal said during a visit to Augusta Wednesday to pitch a strategic plan to transform the system.

One of the elements of the reorganization is for the University of Maine at Augusta and the much-larger University of Southern Maine to merge. Westphal said the two schools can be combined with support from the faculty, staff and students.

Westphal said the system will save money by redefining how education is delivered in Maine and that savings of $15.5 million a year are possible once the strategic plan is fully implemented.

The system’s trustees are scheduled to vote on whether to accept the proposal which will be revised this summer in September.

The plan’s final version is expected to be released on Sept. 7.

Jack Six, a professor from the Augusta campus who attended the meeting, said he is concerned that the proposal is already “a done deal.” He has said he is concerned the plan lacks specifics on change.

Founded in 1965, the Augusta campus has built a reputation as an institution for nontraditional, older students who often juggle family and job responsibilities with part-time and full-time course work.

Though associate degree programs will be phased out because the state’s newly created community college system, the chancellor emphasized that nontraditional students will continue to be an important component of the Augusta campus.

Westphal said no new name has been chosen for the school, but one possibility is the University of Southern Maine at Augusta.

Another part of the restructuring will be to merge the universities in Machias, Fort Kent and Presque Isle into one school.

AP-ES-05-20-04 0216EDT

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