BANGOR (AP) – University of Maine System Chancellor Joseph Westphal described a reorganization plan formally unveiled on Friday as an “ambitious” attempt to improve education and cut costs.

The plan, which would save $12 million a year, proposes a series of changes including merging the resources of the Machias, Presque Isle and Fort Kent campuses. The University of Maine at Augusta also would be rolled into the University of Southern Maine.

“The plan is ambitious and, in our opinion, visionary,” Westphal said. “It talks about the university system’s condition, potential and importance to the future of our state.”

The plan, which was approved this week by a steering committee, will be presented to the Board of Trustees later this month.

Once approved, another phase of planning will begin to define the steps necessary to implement the plan. Westphal said he plans to brief lawmakers early next year before the plan is implemented.

The original plan drew criticism for a proposal to merge the Presque Isle, Fort Kent and Machias campuses into a University of Northern Maine. The revised plan calls for a sharing of administrative resources but each of the three campuses will retain its identity.

At a news conference, Trustee Margaret A. Weston said Westphal and trustees conducted 120 hours of campus meetings and took hundreds of pages of written comments over a five-month period.

“We appreciate receiving that input and incorporated many of the recommendations,” she said. “The plan being released today is better because of it.”

Under the plan, associate degrees would gradually be transferred to the Maine Community College System and clear roles and signature programs will be established for each of the seven universities. Funds will be allocated to each campus based on a set of performance measures.

Westphal did not close the door on the idea of shared governance promoted by the faculty union.

“A word to our faculty and students: I will engage with you in discussions of shared governance and our presidents are excited to work with you in finding ways to achieve these goals,” he said.

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