Responding to COVID-19 college search disruptions, the University of Maine System, Finance Authority of Maine, and Maine Department of Education are partnering with local schools for the On Track for College campaign in support of high school students and their families
Orono, Maine — The University of Maine System, the Finance Authority of Maine, and the Maine Department of Education have created an expedited pandemic pathway for postsecondary education exploration, acceptance, and financial aid eligibility to help high school students impacted by COVID-19 disruptions of the traditional college search process. The On Track for College campaign will deliver a dozen instant, individualized, and all-inclusive college counseling and decision-making events promoted regionally across Maine in partnership with local school counselors and educators.
COVID-19 Upends Traditional College Search
COVID’s disruptions of college fairs, visits, tours, and day-to-day interaction with school counselors could have lifelong impacts on Maine students and families unfamiliar with their postsecondary education options, the admissions process, or the value of postsecondary credentials. Applications for first-year admission among Maine students are down 13% in early January compared to this point in the admissions cycle last year across the University of Maine System. In-state applications have declined more than twice as fast as applications from out-of-state students.
Similarly, FAME reports a 6% year-over-year decline in Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) completions among Maine high school seniors.
“COVID is not going to change our commitment to shaping and securing the college dreams of Maine’s high school students,” said University of Maine System Chancellor Dannel Malloy. “Our admissions counselors, financial aid experts, and student ambassadors will be campaigning throughout the state over the next three months to make sure graduating seniors know their success matters at our universities.”
“For the vast majority of Maine families, completion of the FAFSA is one of the most critical steps in the path to higher education,” said Bruce Wagner, CEO of the Finance Authority of Maine. “Working together with UMS, Maine DOE, and our local school partners, we will work to make sure that Maine high school students learn about scholarship options and receive the support they need to complete the FAFSA, which unlocks their eligibility for federal, state, and institutional financial aid.”
“COVID-19 has tested us all and the traditional ways we engage with our students in support of their learning and personal development. We are incredibly proud of the commitment and resolve we are seeing across the state in support of our students,” said Maine Education Commissioner Pender Makin. “The On Track for College campaign is another student-focused innovation we have developed to help overcome the impacts the pandemic is having In our local schools.”
“The talent and promise of our local school students are Maine’s greatest resource and remain undiminished by the pandemic thanks to the resilience and persistence of our local educators, mentors, and counselors,” said UMaine President Joan Ferrini-Mundy. “Higher education is a very smart choice right now and at UMaine and throughout the University of Maine System, we stand ready to help the high school graduating class of 2021 pursue the vast learning and enrichment opportunities available to them in our classrooms, on our campuses, online, and in our Maine communities.”
“Backed by a historic investment in Maine’s future by the Harold Alfond Foundation, we will transform how we think about and achieve student success with new avenues for experiential and field-based learning, innovations in STEM education, and stronger connections to careers,” continued Ferrini-Mundy.
President Ferrini-Mundy is co-principal investigator of the UMS TRANSFORMS Leadership Group charged with implementation of the initiatives funded by the Harold Alfond Foundation $240 million commitment to the University of Maine System. Twenty million dollars of the investment is focused on bringing lasting, transformational change to student success and retention across the enterprise.
Free On Track for College Events
Live, convention-style On Track for College virtual events will be delivered utilizing a state-of-the-art student engagement and event hosting solution developed by Visit Days. The platform will be used to enroll, schedule, and remind students of upcoming live events, deliver static digital content and information (i.e. promotional videos, virtual campus tours), and provide flexible opportunities to schedule and connect directly with admissions or financial aid experts at live events or outside of scheduled event times.
Admissions and financial aid experts across the University of Maine System and at FAME are collaborating to deliver the instant, individualized, and all-inclusive college counseling and decision-making events. The live events will prominently feature current college students and recent college graduates to answer questions and provide insights into college life.
The free events will be open to high school students from anywhere, but are being organized and promoted regionally across Maine in partnership with local school counselors and educators to increase awareness and strengthen engagement. Participation at multiple events is welcome and juniors just beginning their college searches may attend as well.
EVENT SCHEDULE AND REGIONAL PROMOTION
Ten regionally promoted On Track for College events will be held at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesdays every school week beginning with On Track for College: Aroostook on Feb. 3. During February and April school vacation weeks, statewide 9 a.m. Saturday events (Feb. 13 and April 17) will be held In lieu of the regional evening events to support families not able to attend evening events.
A full schedule of planned events is online.
Local School and Community Partnership: The On Track for College campaign was developed through engagement with local school counselors this fall. An overview of the initiative and an introduction to the platform was presented on Jan. 12 as part of a school counselor summit hosted by the University of Maine System and the Finance Authority of Maine.
Regional participation and awareness campaigns will be executed in support of each On Track for College event inviting school counselors, other education stakeholders, parents and mentors to connect students to the events.