Augusta, Maine — The University of Maine System (UMS) has experienced upticks in enrollment for graduate degree and online programming in the spring 2023 semester, Chancellor Dannel Malloy announced during a Board of Trustees meeting held Monday at the University of Maine at Augusta (UMA).
While the System is experiencing an overall decline in enrollment, with credit hours down 6.7% this semester as of Friday, Malloy said it “saw a new strength in our online learning.” Online programs marketed by Academic Partnerships, a Dallas-based consultant, experienced a 28% increase in enrollment and those not marketed by the firm had 12% growth.
Graduate enrollment also increased 1.1% this semester, defying what Malloy said was expected to be a “substantial decline.” Malloy attributed the growth in part to greater participation in graduate-level programs by out-of-state and international students.
“That doesn’t sound like a big increase, but we were expecting a big decrease,” Malloy told the board. “It is a substantial confirmation of the strength of the programs that we’re offering and, quite frankly, I think better marketing appeal with respect to many of those programs, which I would argue we need to further strengthen going forward.”
The University of Maine at Presque Isle (UMPI) also experienced an increase in enrollment for the sixth consecutive semester, according to UMPI President Ray Rice. He attributed the most recent uptick in part to increased participation in the institution’s Your Pace online learning program.
“I’m especially grateful to the faculty and staff for all the efforts they’ve made possible with our programming both for our in-person students and our online students, and for the difference that makes with our institution and with our communities every day,” Rice said.
Changes in enrollment, residence hall occupancy and general operating expenses prompted UMS universities to revise their fiscal year 2023 budgets. Updates presented by the University of Maine (UMaine) and University of Maine at Farmington (UMF) were approved by the board on Monday.
In an effort to bolster enrollment across the System, UMS and university representatives are developing new marketing and outreach initiatives for adult learners and an upcoming campaign for prospective undergraduate students, said Carolyn Dorsey, Acting Vice Chancellor for Strategic Initiatives for the System. Early College Director Amy Hubbard also has been working on increasing advising sessions that would encourage K–12 students participating in the program to further their education at a UMS institution, Doresy said.
Gov. Janet Mills joined the board meeting for a short time, during which she commended UMS for its recent marketing initiatives, particularly those that highlight all of Maine’s public universities.
Joan Ferrini-Mundy, vice chancellor for research and innovation for UMS and president of UMaine and University of Maine at Machias, described how initiatives to involve students in research are ever-increasing across the System. For example, several universities have offered Research Learning Experiences (RLEs) to first- and second-year students, enrollment for which reached 514 students across 54 course selections last semester.
The RLE initiative is supported by a generous donation from the Harold Alfond Foundation (External site) as part of UMS TRANSFORMS (External site). The Coalition for Life Transformative Education (CLTE) also is supporting the RLE initiative with a $50,000 grant.
“It’s important to just step back and remember that the science, the technology and the creative scholarship going on in the System is remarkable,” Ferrini-Mundy said. “ We have to sell that not only in the way we often do, which is to cite a major accomplishment and get that out there in the press, but to remember that our students are the best positioned to help us sell this, because they can be inspired by it.”
In other business, the board approved spending $2,000,000 to renovate and relocate the historic Deering Farmhouse at the University of Southern Maine’s (USM) Portland campus. Once updated, the facility will be used to house administrative offices for the Osher School of Music, which will be relocated to the upcoming Center for the Arts, as well as its music library. The expenditure will be financed through USM’s education and general fund.
Trustees also authorized the implementation of a new Bachelor of Science in Human-Centered Technology Design at UMaine (External Site), which will launch in fall 2023.
The new program will feature a collaborative, project-based learning curriculum, build on existing resources and create new research-learning opportunities and a new pathways-to-careers model for both the campus and the System.
About the University of Maine System
Established in 1968, the University of Maine System (UMS) unites seven Maine’s distinctive public universities, comprising 10 campuses and numerous centers, in the common purpose of providing quality higher education while delivering on its traditional tripartite mission of teaching, research, and public service.
In 2020 UMS became the first and only statewide enterprise of public higher education in the country to transition to a unified accreditation for the system. Much different than a merger or consolidation, unified accreditation is a new operating model for the University of Maine System that removes the primary barrier to inter-institutional collaboration.
A comprehensive public institution of higher education, UMS serves more than 30,000 students annually and is supported by the efforts of more than 2,000 full-time and part-time faculty, more than 3,000 regular full-time and part-time staff, and a complement of part-time temporary (adjunct) faculty.
Reaching more than 500,000 people annually through educational and cultural offerings, the University of Maine System also benefits from more than two-thirds of its alumni population residing within the state; more than 123,000 individuals.
The System consists of seven main campuses: The University of Maine (UMaine), including its regional campus the University of Maine at Machias (UMaine Machias); the University of Maine at Augusta (UMA); the University of Maine at Farmington (UMF); the University of Maine at Fort Kent (UMFK), the University of Maine at Presque Isle (UMPI); and the University of Southern Maine (USM). The System also includes a UMA campus in Bangor, USM campuses in Gorham and Lewiston-Auburn, the University of Maine School of Law, and the University of Maine Graduate and Professional Center.