AUBURN – University of Maine System Chancellor Richard Pattenaude conducted a little math class Thursday for members of the Androscoggin County Chamber of Commerce.

The fundamental formula: Success in five university goals equals one much-improved Maine economy.

“We have $625 million a year in resources and we have 45,000 students,” Pattenaude said to the breakfast crowd gathered at Martindale Country Club. “What’s our share worth? What do we do with it?”

Pattenaude presented the same questions to the presidents of the university’s seven campuses. The answer is a five-part Agenda for Action that Pattenaude hopes will help transform Maine’s economy through an educated work force, in partnership with business and government.

“What’s facing Maine and what do we do about it?” he asked. “If we don’t have a vibrant economy everything else is harder to do.”

First up is student success, which means graduation. Pattenaude said Maine lags behind the New England average on baccalaureate degrees among its population, but that gap widens further when master’s degrees or higher are considered. The goal is to increase the number of baccalaureate-degree graduates to 5,000 annually by 2012.

The second pillar of the program is strengthening Maine’s economy though research, development and educational initiatives.

“We have asked each campus to have a clear plan to participate in economic development,” Pattenaude said. The university intends to increase its external financing to $150 million by 2012 and its support of Maine Economic Improvement Fund.

The third goal is environmental stewardship, which Pattenaude said the university will meet by teaching the subject as well as modeling it. Energy conservation is a priority of the university, both from an operational and curriculum point of view.

“All our new buildings are LEED certified,” said Pattenaude, designating them as environmentally sound. The university is also building wind turbines at the Presque Isle campus, a co-generation plant at Orono and conducting energy audits on each campus.

The fourth part of the plan is financial sustainability. Pattenaude said the university is committed to prudent financial controls, transparency, cost containment and optimal, efficient operations. At the end of his presentation, Betty Robinson, former dean of the local campus, asked Pattenaude when the university would update its funding formula, set in 1968.

The formula uses assessments set 40 years ago that don’t take into account the explosive growth of the more southern campuses – including Lewiston’s – versus the slower growth of the northern colleges.

“Next question,” quipped Pattenaude, smiling.

He acknowledged that the funding formula has translated into fixed costs for the colleges’ budgets, and will not likely change. But new money will be viewed critically, he said, noting that the $200,000 in a new challenge fund would be allocated on the quality of the proposals, irrespective of a particular campus’ budget.

“Our hope is to add to (the new fund) every year,” said Pattenaude.

Robinson’s question was the perfect example of the fifth and final part of the agenda: higher education advocacy. Pattenaude said the university needs to be more aggressive about letting people know about the value of higher education and currying their support. Specifically, he wants to see a fully implemented outreach plan and to double the university’s advocacy network by 2012. The goal is to get 75 percent of Mainers to acknowledge the value and necessity of higher education in Maine’s economy and quality of life.

“A baccalaureate education is the key to the future,” he said.


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