The University of Southern Maine announced Tuesday that it will lay off an unspecified number of employees.

The letter from President Jacqueline Edmondson announcing the cuts did not give an exact number, and university officials would not say Tuesday how many positions are being eliminated. But USM will eliminate the Russell Scholars program as well as lay off some employees in management positions, Edmondson wrote in the letter addressed to the USM community. The layoffs become effective Friday.

“I am reaching out to share some difficult news,” Edmondson wrote. “In determining how to balance the priorities of the university, and evaluate reallocation of funds, the leadership team and I made challenging decisions. Our intention is that these decisions will position the university toward future growth.”

The jobs of director and associate director of the Russell Scholars program have been eliminated, as well as management positions including directors of advising, graduate studies, student engagement and leadership.

The Russell Scholars program has been open to all first-year and transfer students, and includes academic mentoring, specialized core curriculum classes, a “guided exploration of career interests” and on-campus housing.

Russell Scholars is a “close-knit, welcoming environment that integrates academic and social life and cultivates a home away from home within the larger University,” USM’s website states.

“We acknowledge that this is painful for those directly affected, their teams, students, and our community, which is why we have done everything possible to avoid position eliminations until now,” Edmondson wrote in an email to the Press Herald.

The University of Southern Maine has campuses in Gorham, Portland and Lewiston, and enrolls about 7,000 students. USM’s enrollment is down about 10% from five years ago.

USM is part of the University of Maine System, which is struggling with enrollment, similar to many colleges and universities across the nation. The system started a pilot program of direct admissions – admitting students who have not formally applied – in order to boost enrollment. Nearly 300 students enrolled in 2023-24 through the direct admissions program, and system officials have said they expect to expand the direct enrollment program in the coming years.

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