University of Maine at Farmington launches new Early College Pathways to help prepare the next generation of educators

University of Maine at Farmington sign outside a campus building
Photo Credit: UMF Image

As Maine confronts a dire teacher workforce shortage that is challenging schools this fall, the University of Maine at Farmington (UMF) has launched a free new Early College Pathways program that can give high school students a valuable head start acquiring college credits and attract and prepare the next generation of educators.

New at UMF, are six Early College Pathways that offer high school students the opportunity to take a group of three to five courses in a specific major or program. This cluster of related courses can help students sample content from programs and majors that they are interested in and earn credits that will have a meaningful impact on their time and savings once they are actually in college.

For high school students interested in learning more about becoming a teacher there are now two specific UMF pathways that can help them explore what it is to major in teacher preparation. “Early Childhood Education,” and “Education and Teaching” are two, 4-course, 10-12 credit pathways that will help students interested in being teachers learn about the different fields in Education and how to pursue their interests. This group of credits is equal to at least a semester of college.

“We are so excited about the new Early College Teacher Preparation pathways,” said Katherine Yardley, UMF associate provost and dean of the College of Education, Health and Rehabilitation. “They have been created to provide high school students interested in becoming educators with an introduction to the education profession and the vital roles that educators play in support of students, families, and thriving communities, while giving students a jump start to completing their education degrees.” 

“I came into college with more than a semester’s worth of Early College credits, which helped create room in my schedule to be able to have both a minor in Special Education and a concentration in Mathematics,” said Brittney Church, UMF student from Columbia Falls. “Now I’m enrolled in UMF’s 4+1 program where I’m working toward a master’s degree in Special Education. Taking Early College credits while in high school helped prepare me for my college experience and fast forward my career plans.”

In addition to teacher preparation, UMF has also created Early College Pathways that help high school students explore other careers, programs and majors.

UMF’s “Community Health” Pathway offers three distinct topics that are more important than ever in today’s world, including Public Health and Nutrition; Foundational Health; and Health, Sexuality and Gender.

Students interested in social services that improve the well-being of individuals, families and communities may be drawn to Farmington’s “Rehabilitation Services” Pathway. Those core courses will help students explore the helping professions, and careers such as counselors, social workers and advocates.

The “Liberal Arts” Pathway can provide students with coursework from a variety of disciplines that can help develop critical thinking and creative skills while also filling General Education requirements at most colleges and universities. With this pathway there are no set recommendations, but students can create their own course sequence by choosing courses from Humanities, Art, Natural Science and Social Science.

The “Introduction to College” Pathway has students select courses from a wide variety of offerings that fill General Education requirements at most colleges and universities that they are likely to encounter as a first-year college student.

“Early College courses give high school students the opportunity to earn college credits while exploring possible college majors and career aspirations,” said Joseph McDonnell, UMF interim president. “These newly developed pathways at Farmington allow students in public schools or homeschooled to earn college credits without paying tuition—a significant savings to students and their families.”

There are three primary Early College course modalities at Maine’s Public Universities: on campus or at a campus center, online, or concurrent enrollment (CE) that includes courses taught at the student’s high school. CE courses are taught by college-approved high school teachers in collaboration with university faculty.

“I can’t say enough about our high school educator partners,” said Kirsten Petroska, UMF director of Early College Partnerships. “They are so dedicated to their students. They provide a perfect balance of energy and inspiration. They meet their students where they are and, with the support of our faculty, help bridge the preparedness gap between high school and college.”

The UMF Early College Program has nearly 40 concurrent enrollment partnerships with high school teachers. Students in its online summer courses have nearly doubled since last year.

“Early college pathways have given our Career and Technical Education students the opportunity to get a head start on their careers,” said Amanda Crane, Early Childhood Education instructor at Region Two School of Applied Technology. “Whether students plan on working with children from birth to age five in a childcare setting, or they plan to go into the school system in some capacity, programs like this help students have the exposure that they need to obtain their personal goals and help meet the State of Maine’s workforce needs. ”

To sign up or learn more contact Kirsten Petroska, UMF director of Early College Partnerships, or visit the UMF Early College Pathways website (External Site).

Early college is a partnership between the University of Maine System and the Maine Department of Education, supported by the Legislature.  Early college allows Maine students to earn credit through Maine’s public universities and community colleges while still in high school. These opportunities raise college aspirations, high school and postsecondary degree attainment, and college and career readiness – all while reducing student debt. While early college benefits all learners, it most improves outcomes for those who are traditionally underserved.