LEWISTON – Professors ought to be free to teach more classes – in-person and online – and make more money for the University of Maine System, students and professors alike pleaded Tuesday at Lewiston-Auburn College.

The request came amid nearly two hours of testimony to a systemwide task force created to find savings.

Bernice Conklin-Powers, an assistant professor in Lewiston, said she has been forced to turn away tuition-paying students because she is unable to add another section to a class she is already teaching.

The reason: The budget crunch has made adding such classes tougher. It has also limited part-time staff.

“We have paying students and there’s nobody to teach them,” Conklin-Powers said.

Other savings talk focused on a computer program linking the campuses, the need for more cooperation between systems’ schools and for better data on students and their needs.

The task force was created by UMaine Chancellor Richard Pattenaude. The group has been charged with making recommendations to the trustees for widespread changes.

“All options are on the table,” Pattenaude said in January. “The universities may look different. They may be put together differently.”

The state universities need to cut $42.8 million over the next four years to balance their budgets. Already, the school system has had layoffs and left positions unfilled to help meet an immediate $8 million cut requested by Gov. John Baldacci.

In the longer term, the school system needs to adapt to a recurring money gap, forecast to be around $6 million.

Six members of the task force visited Lewiston: David Flanagan, Marjorie Medd, Allyson Hughes Handley, Charles Weiss, James Bradley and Ronald Mosley.

Jan Phillips, LA College’s associate dean for outreach, told them Lewiston has already done a good job of keeping costs down.

There a few middle managers in the school, she said.

And when the school has seen places to make money, it has made the changes.

Among them was a chance to merge the library and computer lab staff.

“We literally took down the wall between them,” Phillips said.

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