University of Maine students walk across the campus' mall in October of 2019. Credit: Courtesy of the University of Maine

The University of Maine has closed one of its three dining halls and a residence hall for the fall semester, reflecting some of the lowest enrollment the Orono campus has seen in years and staffing troubles that have plagued virtually every industry.

The university closed Hancock Hall, one of 19 residence halls on campus, ahead of the fall semester, reassigning about 160 older students to another dorm. That move was a reflection of “lower than expected” occupancy at campus residence halls, university spokesperson Margaret Nagle said.

The university also closed the nearby dining hall, Wells Central, she said. In addition to lower enrollment, that move reflected a need for dining cooks to replace retiring workers and those who had made post-COVID career moves, Nagle said.

The smaller on-campus population coincides with some of the lowest enrollment UMaine and the rest of the University of Maine System have seen in years, matching a national trend of fewer students enrolling in college during the COVID-19 pandemic.

There are 1,854 full-time first-year students enrolled this semester at UMaine, down 16 percent from last year at the same time.

First-year enrollment is also down across the statewide university system. The system’s seven universities have 3,309 full-time first-year students this fall, down from 3,984 at this time last year.

The decline in enrollment equates to less tuition revenue for the university system as it faces the prospect of years of multimillion-dollar budget deficits.

Most of the 160 students moved from Hancock Hall are living in Gannett Hall this semester, Nagle said. However, Hancock Hall is still in use for some 65 first-year students who required housing but applied for it late, she said.

This isn’t the first time in recent history that the university has closed the Wells Central dining hall. In the spring of 2021, the dining hall was closed due to a low student population. It was open with more limited hours in both the fall of 2021 and last spring.

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Sawyer Loftus

Sawyer Loftus is a reporter covering Old Town, Orono and the surrounding areas. A recent graduate of the University of Vermont, Sawyer grew up in Vermont where he's worked for Vermont Public Radio, The...