Student resilience, academic accommodations, and faculty and staff engagement lead to persistent levels on par with last year, despite COVID-19 disruption of campus operations
Orono, Maine — Across the University of Maine System campuses, 26,847 students — 98.5% of the 27,266 enrolled at the start of the semester — persisted with their classes and course of study, despite the COVID-19 disruption of campus operations and the transition to distance instruction. Chancellor Dannel Malloy shared the data with student representatives to the Board of Trustees as part of a discussion of the System’s COVID-19 response and planning.
The student persistence rate for the 2020 spring semester equals persistence levels from the 2019 spring semester. As of the May 1, 2020 end of classes, students were still enrolled in 96.2% of the 285,041 credit hours attempted in the spring term. Students were also still participating in 96.3% of the 95,296 courses they registered for at the start of the semester.
In terms of both credit hours and course registrations, student persistence for the 2020 spring semester is exceeding performance from the prior year by a fraction of a percentage point.
The University of Maine System began considering the potential impact of COVID-19 last year, and was sharing its plans for coronavirus preparations and continuity of instruction in February. Nearly $1 million was invested in information technology in support of distance learning, special academic and student accommodations were approved, and faculty and staff committed to providing students with motivation and support needed to finish the semester successfully.
“Our students and their families can trust Maine’s public universities will put their interests and success first,” said Chancellor Malloy. “We are very proud of how our faculty and staff kept our commitment to quality instruction and rose to the challenge of meeting our students where they are this semester.
“We will learn from how we have had to change our educational models this spring and will be stronger for it. As we plan to safely welcome students back to campus, we will be able to provide even greater flexibility and student focus,” added Malloy.
As of May 1, more than 4,600 undergraduate students across the System had elected to be graded on a pass/fail basis in one or more courses. The grading accommodation created for the COVID-19-impacted spring semester provided students with an opportunity to continue to make academic program progress without negatively affecting grade point averages or eligibility for financial aid.
“I chose to take all my classes pass/fail this semester because of the uncertainty of the pandemic,” said Alexander Haggan of Farmington, Maine, an aviation major at the University of Maine at Augusta. “I was concerned about the impact poor grades would have on my standing as a student if someone in my family became sick and I couldn’t focus on my schoolwork. Fortunately, that was not the case and the pass/fail option gave me the peace of mind I needed to stay enrolled and on track to graduating next year.”
Remarks from Student Leaders
“These past few months have undoubtedly been quite challenging for many Americans, especially college students. There has been much to be concerned about, and the pervasive uncertainty of what the future may hold only exacerbates these feelings. However, this difficult period has also highlighted the depths of human compassion, resilience and community, all of which are intrinsic to the (University of Maine) System.
“Since the beginning of this crisis, my professors, as well as campus and (University of Maine) System leaders, have been committed to keeping the needs of students front and center. In the process, they have exhibited their extraordinary commitment to student success and higher education in our state. The road ahead may be challenging and uncertain, but I am proud to be part of an educational system that cares so deeply about human value and the attainment of knowledge, even in the face of such unprecedented and difficult circumstances.“
— Irene Neal, Student Trustee Designee from Amherst, Maine, rising junior majoring in nursing at the University of Maine at Fort Kent
“Every Maine college student had a unique set of challenges to overcome to complete the semester. Our professors and our advisors were there for us at every turn, keeping us motivated, answering our questions and making sure we had the support we needed to continue our academic progress.”
— Nathan Carlow, Student Representative to UMS Board of Trustees from Buxton, Maine, rising junior and political science major, University of Southern Maine
“Though our time in the classroom was cut short, we persisted. We persisted like all other Mainers. This is truly something to be proud of. A true testament to the will of the students and the passion of faculty and staff.”
— David Ballard, Student Representative to UMS Board of Trustees, a Farmington resident originally from Whitney Point, New York, rising junior political science major, University of Maine at Farmington