University of Maine System Chancellor Dannel Malloy (center-left) looks at the screen of an iPad just before the system board of trustees meeting is called to order May 23, 2022. Credit: Sawyer Loftus / BDN

The University of Maine System will get to keep its first-in-the-nation systemwide accreditation to be a higher education institution.

Five months after a team of evaluators descended on the University of Maine’s campus in Orono last October, the UMaine system’s regional accreditor — the New England Commission of Higher Education — reaffirmed its unique status as a system bound together with a single accreditation, according to a March 21 letter from the commission.

The commission also gave the system approval to continue offering competency-based education at the University of Maine at Presque Isle, a form of non-traditional higher education that has helped bolster the small Aroostook County university’s enrollment.

umaine enrollment woes

A team sent by the New England Commission of Higher Education spent two days in October meeting with students, staff, faculty and administrators from across the system to evaluate if it was meeting the commission’s requirements. To be accredited, a university, or in this case a university system, must meet a set of standards designed to ensure the quality and integrity of the institution.

Accreditation is a voluntary process, but, without it, higher education institutions are disqualified from receiving federal funding for things like financial aid.

The October visit was set apart from previous accreditation visits as it was the first since the system in 2020 became the first public higher education system in the nation to pursue a system-level accreditation, as opposed to individual accreditation for each campus, which the system’s seven universities maintained for decades before.

umaine enrollment woes

Unified accreditation was one of the first initiatives system Chancellor Dannel Malloy pursued when he took the job in 2019. It was meant to allow the system’s seven universities to share resources, faculty and services to a greater extent.

But the initiative has since come under criticism from faculty members who have said the model removes decision-making autonomy from individual campuses and that the university system rushed the change through, leaving an impression that it was a way to shrink the faculty.

In its letter, the commission requested that the system give an update in 2025 on its implementation of a new strategic plan which is still in the works.

The University of Maine System’s next comprehensive evaluation will be scheduled for the fall of 2032.

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Sawyer Loftus

Sawyer Loftus is an investigative reporter at the Bangor Daily News. A graduate of the University of Vermont, Sawyer grew up in Vermont where he worked for Vermont Public Radio, The Burlington Free Press...