Early College (EC) teams at each campus provide direct support to students and their families, as well as help students access campus resources. The University of Maine System (UMS) EC Program also contracted with the company NetTutor, which provides online tutoring services for hundreds of content areas 24 hours per day/7 day per week. All high school students receive this tutoring service free of charge.
The open access policy further allows UMS students the opportunity to select any course they have met the prerequisites for. While these broad opportunities provide many choices, students can be overwhelmed by the vast array of options. All campuses offer gateway courses, which are highly-transferable, foundational courses such math and English, as well as common general education courses including psychology and sociology. While gateway and general education courses are valuable, the best programs “help students understand the degrees and pathways that match their life goals and may lead to well-paying careers” (Mehl et al., 2020, p. 31).
The University of Maine at Machias led the Early College Career Exploration Pathways initiative, offering certificates in key career areas in Maine such as STEM, business, and education. Most recently, the aquaculture certificate was created in response to local workforce needs and per the request of a high school in Washington County. The University of Maine at Fort Kent and the University of Maine at Augusta also offer EC certificates. Similarly, the University of Maine recently released pathways, which are carefully selected courses that align to programs in a variety of majors. These career exploration pathways and certificates help students select a combination of gateway, general education, and content courses to help give them a jump start towards potential college majors. For students who are unsure of which career areas they are interested in, students can explore a combination of content and general education courses before choosing a potential major or college. Plans are currently in place to pilot a one-credit career exploration course at the University of Maine to serve the dual purposes of career and course selection advising.