Upon granting unified accreditation to the University of Maine System in July 2020, our regional accreditor, the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE), asked us to prepare a self-study in advance of a Fall 2022 visit by a NECHE-appointed evaluation team. Standard Five: Students can be found on this page.Read the full self-study
Enrollment: undergraduate recruitment
COVID-19 required a rapid and strategic shift in recruitment practices, including greater coordination and collaboration in planning and staging events across the University of Maine System (UMS). For example, UMS piloted a Presidential Tour series in spring 2020 showcasing each university for prospective and admitted students and their families. Broadcast live on YouTube, the tours garnered strongly positive feedback from attendees (in person and remote) at the initial height of pandemic uncertainty.
Learning from the Presidential Tour series, UMS made a spring 2021 investment in the Visit Days recruitment platform and developed a social and digital media campaign promoting weekly On Track For College events. Through these resources, prospective and admitted students visited with admissions and financial aid representatives from each UMS university in a live, one-on-one setting. UMS also invited Finance Authority of Maine (FAME) counselors to attend these events and assist students who had not filed the FAFSA with one-on-one preparation and submission. In addition, the Admissions directors (undergraduate and graduate) meet monthly to explore collaborations and share best practices.
Enrollment: graduate recruitment
In 2021, UMS hosted its first collaborative graduate school virtual open house featuring every UMS university with graduate programs. Future collaborative events are planned, and the graduate admissions directors from each UMS university now meet monthly to collaborate on recruitment initiatives.
Collaborative programs and strategic initiatives
Even prior to COVID and unified accreditation, UMS supported and encouraged collaborative programming among its universities. Several partnerships have produced enrollment increases at the smaller universities, and some have provided academic pathways to the larger universities for students interested in programs not available elsewhere.
For example, the Maine Engineering Pathways Program (MEPP), established in 2016, allows students to take general education courses needed for the engineering programs at UM and USM at the smaller UMS universities. When students complete the required curriculum at one of those universities with the requisite GPA, they receive automatic admission into the larger engineering programs and can transfer efficiently. Through the first three years of the program, 21 students enrolled in MEPP, with the largest number at UMA, and three students had transferred to UM or USM to continue their engineering education.
An early program assessment revealed that UMA’s success in attracting MEPP students was tied to its decision to establish a defined major for MEPP rather than employing a check-box on the program application. The latter approach resulted in some students checking the box without understanding what MEPP entails. To correct this, the other participating universities have been encouraged to create a defined MEPP major along the UMA model.
The Law School’s Rural Lawyer Project was launched in 2017 in response to a shortage of local legal services in a number of rural Maine communities. The project pairs students with local attorneys who serve as mentors and give students direct exposure to rural legal practice. The project began as a collaboration between the Law School and several non-profit partners.
As of spring 2022, the Law School is pursuing a related initiative: the development of a satellite legal clinic in Aroostook County, Maine’s northernmost county. This pilot clinical program will bring students under the supervision of a licensed attorney to expand free legal aid and encourage students to establish legal practices in Aroostook communities.
Admission criteria: undergraduate
Admission to UMS universities is based on a combination of factors demonstrating potential for academic success. Admission requirements are clearly stated on admission websites, in academic catalogues, and often on the websites of academic programs. Criteria include academic credentials, scholastic achievement, and non-cognitive factors such as personal motivation.
Some UMS universities were test-optional prior to the pandemic, but in response to the manifest challenges COVID-19 has presented, all of them adopted an SAT/ACT test-optional policy in 2020. The policy is now permanent on the undergraduate side and is in place through 2022 for graduate admissions.
Verification of student identity follows an established process for in-person (campus-based) and distance and online courses. UMS employs a secure login managed by UMS requiring password changes every 180 days to ensure that the student who enrolls in a course is the same one who participates in that course and earns credit for it upon completion. Use of a student’s assigned UMS username and password is required for participation in online courses.
All UMS university Admissions offices determine admissibility of domestic and international students to undergraduate programs using criteria developed in consultation with the academic colleges. At UM, the Office of International Programs collaborates in this process. Admissions personnel generally consult with the appropriate dean about applicants deemed borderline for admission. USM and UM have English as a Second or Foreign Language (ESOL) centers that serve as gateways to degree programs for non-native speakers.
Admission criteria: graduate
UMS graduate Admissions offices work closely with deans and faculty to develop and apply criteria for assessing the admissibility of domestic and international students. Each program completes admission reviews using a committee comprising faculty and admissions staff. Graduate program entrance requirements vary by department and program, with some requiring entrance examinations like the GRE or GMAT. All admissions requirements are published on the universities’ websites and in their graduate catalogues.
The Law School employs a separate admissions process and criteria. The LSAT is required for admission but is not the sole determinant. Similar to other graduate programs, the Law School takes a holistic approach to admissions decisions. Student consumer information, including entrance numbers, bar passage, and placement data, are available to all Law School applicants.
Records retention and student privacy
All UMS universities maintain the highest ethical standards in their admissions and retention policies, with records retention and related information-safeguarding policies modeled on and aligned with UMS policies. Additionally, all UMS universities adhere to National Association of College Admission Counseling (NACAC) and International Association for College Admission Counseling (IACAC) standards of practice, and to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA), which protects the privacy of students.
Students have the right to inspect their educational records and the right to challenge records when they are inaccurate, misleading, or in violation of a student’s privacy rights. Each university’s Office of Student Records (or Office of the Registrar) is the primary resource for information about these records.
Non-discrimination policy and student-facing information
UMS universities do not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, including transgender status and gender expression, national origin, citizenship status, age, disability, genetic information, or veteran’s status in employment, education, and all other programs and activities. Each university has an appointed office or group responsible for monitoring and responding to instances of bias and hate in its university community. UM fulfills that function through a Bias Response Team, and UMA uses a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Council.
Admitted students receive clear communication and information about the cost of attendance, academic and social services, financial aid, and program expectations. Each university offers counseling services, an array of student support services, academic services, and opportunities for enhancement and engagement through campus/student life and co-curricular activities.
Early College and dual enrollment
Early College (EC) programs at UMS universities are a critical resource for Maine’s high school students and represent significant enrollment (see above). Students benefit from expanded access to course offerings, particularly students in rural high schools and those interested in subjects for which teacher shortages exist.
As determined by a review of grades, student feedback, and subsequent academic performance, common outcomes in EC courses include high course success rates, greater student confidence in the ability to complete college-level work, increased college aspirations, higher GPAs and persistence rates, and higher college graduation rates. Most notably, students who take UMS EC classes enroll in college at a rate that is 12% higher than students who have not participated in EC. (See Standard Eight for a further appraisal of Early College outcomes.)
UM’s Summer Start Program was designed to aid in the retention of incoming fall 2020 first-year students by providing them the chance to take two online summer courses: a three-credit course and a one-credit course. First-generation students were offered the option to enroll in a special section of LAS 150, a UM College of Liberal Arts and Sciences course that includes peer mentoring support, as the one-credit option. Eighty- three students enrolled in Summer Start in 2020, and 56 successfully completed their coursework. In summer 2021, Summer Start students participated in pilot offerings of the Research Learning Experience (RLE) program. Fifty-three students completed their courses.
Each UMS university offers a comprehensive new student orientation for each semester’s incoming cohort (fall and spring) to familiarize new students with the university, its resources, important policies and procedures, academic programs and faculty, and each other. Most of the universities also deliver cohort programming for international students, veterans, and family caretakers.
Peer leaders are an important component of orientations and related programming. At UM, peer mentors are rigorously trained through a Certified Peer Education program, and volunteer to help their peers in various contexts, including a Student Wellness program and a Thriving Leaders program. UM’s Commuter and Nontraditional Student Programs (CNTSP) employ six peer mentors to support other students through social programs and interactions in the university’s Commuter Lounge. Other peer mentors support Campus Recreation programming and programs for student veterans.
Student financial services
Each university has student financial aid staff and resources that assist students and families with the process of funding their education. In addition to advising families and disbursing aid and university-based program funds, these offices provide information on costs, types of financial aid, completing the FAFSA, and debt. In 2021-22, UM collaborated with UMPI and UMFK on a model for supporting the financial aid administration of the latter two universities.
Cumulatively, UMS universities have substantially increased their investment in financial aid in recent years, as measured in part by increased scholarship levels at UM, USM, and UMM. Between FY15 and FY20, overall UMS financial aid spending grew from $119 million to $153 million, a 28.5% increase. Spending on institutional grants and scholarships was the largest contributor to this growth.
All UMS universities use the FAFSA and admissions application materials to award university-level and federal student aid. The universities follow a System-wide policy for tuition adjustment resulting from course withdrawal. However, aid delivery is managed differently among the universities, with UMA and USM operating financial aid as “header” universities (where aid is awarded and disbursed the summer before the traditional academic year begins) and the rest as “trailer” universities (where aid is awarded and disbursed at the end of the traditional academic year). The ongoing UMS transition to a single Office of Postsecondary Education Identifier (OPE ID) will not require aligning all seven universities under a “header” or “trailer” model. Each university is free to retain its current approach to delivering aid.
UMS universities partner with FAME to provide students access to the IGRAD financial literacy tool, and to the Educational Credit Management Corporation (ECMC), which provides comprehensive default-prevention services. In addition, financial literacy information is shared with students in a number of courses. For example, USM covers financial literacy in its senior exit course Launching Into Life After College. New Ventures Maine provides extensive financial literacy education for UMA students, and UMF is home to a Systemwide Financial Literacy Peer Education program available to students at every UMS university.
Cost transparency is a tenet at all UMS universities. Detailed breakdowns at each university delineate costs specific to different student populations by residency and level. In 2016, UMS launched a Financial Terms and Conditions agreement that each student was required to complete before enrolling in courses for the upcoming term. The agreement contains essential information about billing, communication, and student responsibilities.
Other supports are financial. For example, UMA’s Pine Tree State Pledge is a tuition- guarantee program assuring that qualified and eligible in-state, full-time, first-year students will not pay out-of-pocket expenses for tuition and mandatory fees. The program is also open to new in-state full-time and part-time transfer students who have earned at least 30 transferable credits.
UMS has also provided some financial relief for students through a small debt forgiveness program established by the UMS Student Success Center. In fall 2021, three students with debt totaling $7500 were persisting (when they would not have continued otherwise) and were expected to resolve that debt. Ten additional students were supported through the relief program, and eight remained enrolled and in good standing as of April 2022. As of spring 2022, a further six students were working with a Success Coach on debt relief and were preparing for fall 2022 enrollment.
UMA and USM used Higher Education Emergency Relief Funds (HEERF) to support student debt relief. UMA HEERF funds posted to student accounts as of December 2021 provided 717 students with debt relief, including 544 with total debt forgiveness and 173 with partial relief. Similarly, at USM, 1,140 students with balances incurred during the pandemic had their debts forgiven as of February 2022.
Common methodology for calculating discount rates
In 2016-17, the Unified Budget Institutional Aid Committee developed a common methodology for calculating discount rates for use in monitoring tuition discounting across UMS. The UMS Enrollment Management Council supported the study and committed itself to annual reporting on outcomes in this area. Following the initial study (in 2016-17), the study was continued in 2019-20 and 2020-21, and will be completed each year hereafter.
The UMS calculated tuition discount rate equals total unrestricted aid divided by total gross tuition and mandated fee charges. As noted in the 2020-21 UMS Tuition Discount Report, the “overall degree-seeking tuition discount rate varied from [university to university,] with a low of 14% at UMPI and a high of 34% at UM. Similarly, tuition discount rates for first- time, full-time degree-seeking undergraduates ranged from 23% at UMM to 44% at UMA” (p. 3). Comparable ranges were observed for incoming full-time transfer students and full- time continuing degree-seeking students.
Supporting student success
Student success as measured by retention and graduation/completion is a permanent priority for UMS. Each university tracks retention and graduation rates and establishes student success goals in its strategic plan. Correspondingly, each engages in a range of activities to improve student success, including addressing hurdles faced by traditional and non-traditional students, full- and part-time students, first-time-in-college and transfer students, and other cohorts (e.g. veterans, underrepresented, Pell-eligible, first-generation).
Interventions include targeted academic and student support, first-year academic experiences, calendar and scheduling assistance, identification of barrier courses, deployment of campaigns encouraging students to complete 30 credits per year to graduate in four years, and student life, co-curricular, and extra-curricular activities. Despite these interventions, as evidenced in UM’s Data First forms, improving persistence rates remains challenging. Rates for first-time, full-time; first-time, part-time; non-first time, full-time; and non-first time, part-time students have remained more or less flat since 2010-11.
The University of Maine at Machias (UMM) and five educational and community organizations and agencies support Family Futures Downeast (FFD), a program “created to promote post-secondary education for parents and early childhood education for children as a means to reduce poverty, create employment opportunities[,] and improve stability [for] Washington County, Maine families.” FFD students enter through a College Transitions program and enroll in FFD in the fall in a 15-16 credit, cohort-based academic program.
Student supports include study skills training, financial aid, and assistance in math, reading, and technology skills. As of May 2022, 81% of FFD students have completed the year-long program, and 83% of those students have matriculated into a further post- secondary program at UMM or elsewhere.
Student services: overview and guiding principles
UMS universities offer an array of student services consistent with their missions and student needs. Student Life and other student services offices are funded at levels assuring appropriate delivery of robust programming. A full description of student services can be found on the website of each UMS university.
Each student services office or division is led by a chief student affairs officer, and staff sizes are scaled to the number of students being supported. For example, in 2021-22, UMF student affairs employed 51 professionals, 7.25 support staff, and 199 undergraduates. In the same year, UM and UMM (combined) employed 56 professionals, 24 support staff, 22 graduate students, and 338 undergraduates, while UMPI employed 30 professional staff, 5 support staff, and 91 undergraduates. UMA’s staffing pattern included 21 professionals, 5 support staff, 2 graduate students, and 30 undergraduates.
Student services personnel are highly trained and well credentialed, with the typical minimum degree requirement for professional staff being the master’s degree. UMS Human Resources serves all seven universities, and the Law School collaborates with all departments via a business partner model to help recruit, train, develop, incentivize, and retain employees committed to a student-centered mission. The UMS Office of Equal Opportunity ensures that the community upholds federal and state nondiscrimination laws.
Student services personnel follow Council for the Advancement of Standards in Higher Education (CAS) standards in creating and assessing high-quality programs in each functional area. The National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA) Standards of Practice further guide staff by promoting student services work as a profession and defining clear expectations for respect for individual difference and diversity, a commitment to service, and dedication to the development of persons and the community. Many UMS student services staff are active in their functional area professional associations, with UMS purchasing System-wide memberships when possible to reduce costs to the universities and expand access for personnel.
UMS administers a common student information system, student conduct code, Title IX procedures, and Equal Opportunity policies. All UMS universities generate student handbooks as the official student guide, with detailed information about UMS policies and information as well as policies specific to the university where a student is matriculated. The student handbooks are digital, easily accessible, and updated annually. Some policies have shifted to the UMS level, including the recent additions of a UMS Tobacco-Free Policy and a UMS Academic Integrity Policy. UMS and its universities use Maxient software for reporting and tracking Title IX, conduct, and Clery. Reports may be made through an online report form or to any university official.
Student services: the Student Conduct Code
The UMS Student Conduct Code promotes student activity and achievement in the context of positive intellectual, ethical, and physical development. The Code is reviewed and revised every three years by a trained Conduct Review Board. The most recent update was adopted in 2021.
Student services: Title IX
In 2020, UMS hired a central Coordinator of Title IX Services reporting to the UMS Director of Equal Opportunity to establish consistency of compliance efforts across the universities and Law School. Each university appoints one or more Deputy Title IX Coordinators to support its needs and liaise with the UMS Coordinator.
All employees, student workers, and incoming students are required to complete annual Title IX training. For this purpose, UMS currently uses the GET INCLUSIVE software platform, which is self-administered and includes an assessment component.
Note: Percentages based on total number of active employees
(8,087) and student employees (4,406) paid between August 1, 2021 and May 19, 2022 and therefore expected to complete these trainings. Data exclude active PATFA employees who were not paid between these dates.
Student services: physical and mental health resources
UMS universities offer a range of housing options, from suite-style to traditional double- loaded corridors. To meet the housing needs of a growing population of non-binary students, the universities have expanded the availability of gender-inclusive housing and bathroom facilities. As defined by Sightlines/Gordian data, inclusive of buildings, wings, and additions, there are 55 distinct residential facilities across UMS.
University recreation departments encourage physical activity and good health in a variety of ways. Recreation facilities provide and promote opportunities to engage in intramural sports and teams, open gym times, equipment use, and outdoor recreational activity. During the pandemic, many recreation and fitness services were converted to virtual platforms to give all UMS community members access to fitness classes and personal training opportunities from afar.
Each university has either a stand-alone health clinic or a relationship with local health care providers and a liaison to facilitate the use of resources. Students at each university have mental health support available to them on a reliable basis, either through a fully functioning counseling center or a resource person identified for their population, in addition to wellness coaching and alcohol- and drug-education programming.
Services are predominantly available during business hours, but every university has instituted on-call systems to support the emergent physical and mental health needs of students during evenings and weekends. In 2021, UMS introduced SilverCloud, an online self-efficacy tool to assist students in managing their mental health. Additionally, universities across UMS convene interdisciplinary teams that analyze concerning student behavior and provide resources and support as needed.
Student services: dining
Dining options cater to diverse dietary needs and include eat in, takeout, a la carte, and buffet service. All UMS universities except UM contract for food service with Sodexo, which manages dining and catering in-house. UMS dining programs strive to promote healthy eating habits and diverse food choices for thousands of residential and non-residential students. For students with unique needs, dining programs are staffed with dieticians available for individual consultation. Some UMS universities make kitchens available to students who have a demonstrated need to cook for themselves.
In the past decade, UMS has concertedly increased its sourcing of local food to support sustainable production. At UM, groceries account for 33% of the total food expenditure, and 19% are sourced locally. The university’s goal is to see 25% of all food purchases locally sourced by 2025. UMS’s Sodexo contract includes a commitment to use at least 20% locally sourced food. Sodexo is meeting and exceeding this goal. Sodexo also partners with each university to invest in dining facilities maintenance, support programming, and address food insecurity through initiatives such as USM’s Food Security Cooler, which is stocked each night with excess food from the university’s Portland dining hall.
Student accessibility services
Student accessibility services staff across UMS collaborate to standardize support services, remove educational barriers, and provide reasonable accommodations for students with documented disabilities. Staff in these offices work directly with faculty, professional advisors, and other university partners to provide an equitable campus-life and educational experience for all university community members. Student accommodations include alternative-format textbooks, alternative testing options, and special housing and dining provisions. The groups maintain a System-wide database for students with disabilities that includes key information and contact notes to provide continuity of support.
Student services: co-curricular opportunities
UMS students may choose from a wide range of co-curricular experiences: clubs and organizations, campus leadership opportunities, intramurals, club sports, community service and engagement, and travel opportunities. Each university has staff assigned to student organizations, leadership training, and out-of-classroom experiences. A joint Student Government Association conference for the seven universities is held annually.
Each university elects a student representative to the UMS Board of Trustees, and UM, USM, and the Law School each elect an additional graduate student representative. These students attend full Board meetings and Board committee meetings. In addition, Maine’s Governor appoints a student to serve a two-year term as a full voting Board member.
All UMS universities offer balanced opportunities for men and women to participate in varsity sports. Student-athletes adhere to all conference and university policies and eligibility standards. Student-athlete handbooks and orientations detail expectations and eligibility criteria. Coaches monitor academic progress, and many facilitate mandatory study sessions. UM’s Diversity Council includes a student-athlete.
The Law School’s Student Bar Association (SBA) fosters community through educational, professional, and social programming. Student groups available to Law students include the American Constitution Society, the Women’s Law Association, the Federalist Society, and the Multicultural Law Society. The SBA also sponsors programs in student wellness and physical activity. Other co-curriculars unique to the Law population are its trial team, law journals, and moot court program.
Academic and career advising
Each UMS university provides individualized academic advising by faculty and professional advisors focused on student success and degree attainment. Advising seeks to equip students with the skills and confidence they need to define and achieve their academic and future goals, take responsibility for their academic success, and practice intellectual curiosity. Increasingly, the universities use the EAB Navigate tool to schedule advising appointments, nudge students to complete transactions, and send early alerts.
MaineStreet, the UMS enterprise management system, includes a degree-audit tool. A System-wide advising group meets regularly to review best practices and pursue enhancements to common advising tools. That group also hosts a biannual UMS Advising Summit. International student immigration advising is provided by all UMS universities hosting F-1 and J-1 programs.
UMS career services offices provide career counseling, job search skill development (e.g. resume/cover letter writing, interviewing, search strategies), education on current trends in employment readiness, and networking opportunities with employers. Historically, all UMS students have been invited to attend career/job fairs at every university regardless of their home university.
All UMS students have access to an online job/internship board. UMA, USM, and UMF have their own platforms, and UM hosts UMM, UMPI, and UMFK students on its platform. As of spring 2022, UMS is exploring a “shared instance” model to allow postings and related components of the job/internship process to be combined and made accessible System-wide.
A significant collaboration has accompanied the introduction of digital badging and micro-credentialing opportunities. UMS career services offices have served as a line of communication to students and to facilitators of some micro-credentials. For example, UMA Career Connections created a BrightSpace course allowing all of the universities to track the progress of students working on a UMS Career Prepared micro-credential developed at UM.
Providing innovative curricular options: Update on the University of Maine At Presque Isle’s M.A. in Organizational Leadership
In its November 6, 2020 letter to Chancellor Malloy, the Commission requested an update on the implementation of UMPI’s Master of Arts in Organizational Leadership (MAOL) competency-based education program, with attention to evaluating governance structures, assessing learning outcomes for the improvement of student learning, and providing appropriate student support with an emphasis on career services.
A Dean of Competency-based Education and Degree Completion was hired in September 2021 to oversee and manage the YourPace degree programs, including MAOL. The dean has collaborated closely with UMPI’s senior leadership (including other deans), full-time and adjunct faculty, and staff to create partnerships, identify areas for improvement, and streamline expenditures. The dean is also working with other UMS universities to maximize human and financial resources.
Increased enrollments in UMPI’s undergraduate degree programs (approximately 322 in the spring 2022, session 2) and MAOL program (approximately 20 in the spring 2022, session 2) affirm the need for additional staff to support the admissions process, enrollment, student retention and success, and curriculum management. A plan for adding graduate programs to the YourPace portfolio is responsive to current and projected enrollments. Additional internal support will be important to the continued success of the YourPace programs.
The MAOL degree program welcomed its first students in October 2020. As of April 2022, a full outcomes assessment of the MAOL curriculum has not been conducted. A migration from Strut, the program’s current delivery system, to Brightspace, the UMS- supported learning management system, is planned for fall 2022, session 1. Once MAOL competencies have been redesigned for delivery in Brightspace, UMPI will take advantage of the program’s tools for assessing learning outcomes. In a related step, a programmatic assessment plan for the MAOL curriculum will be presented to the UMPI Academic Programs Progression and Assessment group for approval in fall 2022.
An Academic Success Coach works with all YourPace students as they move through their academic careers. The coach leads students through orientation, provides deadline reminders, mentors students through difficult situations, and serves as a liaison between students and faculty. Four students have graduated from MAOL, and one student is now enrolled in a doctoral program. The Dean is currently working with UMPI’s Director of Career Readiness on self-paced resource materials for students preparing for their next career step (e.g. resume writing, switching jobs and/or industries).
Making the Graduate initiative
In 2020, UMS formed a System-wide Student Success Steering Committee charged with identifying collaborative opportunities— tools and technology, practice and policy, new initiatives— to be implemented in ways sensitive to differing university missions and populations. Early outcomes include more intentional sharing of institutional best practices and the rapid deployment of student-centered initiatives, such as the Making the Grade program, which allows new students to repeat a failed/low grade course at no cost.
In its first two years, Making the Grade produced a 5% increase in first- to second-year retention among students who took part in it. Forty-four percent of first-year students who failed a course in fall 2018 and repeated it at no cost in spring or summer 2019 returned for the start of their sophomore year in fall 2019. Similarly, 49% of first-years who failed a course in fall 2019 and repeated it at no cost in spring or summer 2020 returned for the start of their sophomore year in fall 2020. In total, over 150 students from all seven UMS universities participated in Making the Grade and saw an average tuition cost savings of $807.
EAB Navigate tools
In a related investment in student success, UMS universities use the EAB Navigate platform and student app, with each customizing the resource to fit local needs. For example, UMPI, UMA, UMM, UMFK, and UM are using progress reports; UMA and UM use the scheduling feature, UMFK has piloted texting, USM is using it for appointment scheduling and the Study Buddies feature, and UMF and UMFK use alerts, quick surveys, and Study Buddies. Professional advisors and other end-users, including faculty, meet periodically to share updates about Navigate usage and outcomes.
Facilities, resources, and accessibility
Many UMS residence halls are outdated. To accommodate current and future students appropriately, UMS is focused on increasing the quality and diversity of housing options available System-wide.
Occupancy levels during the pandemic have been a challenge. In fall 2020, UMS universities had a total residence hall capacity of 6,629. COVID health and safety measures reduced total capacity in fall 2021 to 5,763, but actual occupancy was 4,026. Fall 2022 is projected to present a similar challenge, with capacity estimated at 5,845 and occupancy projected at 4,162. UMS expects increased capacity and occupancy in fall 2023.
As modifications are made in dining programs to address the dynamic needs of students, more focus should be given to developing diverse menus to accommodate those with specialty diets (e.g. vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, allergies, religious restrictions).
While awareness of accessibility needs is increasing, more focus should be placed on educating faculty, staff, and students about accessibility, particularly physical accessibility. Many buildings across the System could be retrofitted, and current accommodations could be standardized. UMS would benefit from a critical review of physical accessibility and corresponding feedback from the university and Law School communities.
In keeping with their missions, UMS universities continually seek ways to ensure services are available to online and distance-education students served through local centers. The pandemic has expanded virtual forms of engagement. For example, UM has worked with the professional association NIRSA: Leaders in Collegiate Recreation to offer a virtual fitness program to anyone with a UMS email address. That program taps into many free online fitness opportunities and has been shared throughout the System. Several universities have also created e-sports leagues as an opportunity for students to socialize in a co-curricular activity remotely.
UMS and its universities have taken steps to ensure students can continue their classes through the pandemic by loaning equipment, reducing internet inequalities, enhancing communication, and offering support for special populations. Like courses themselves, support service resources such as tutoring are now available in hi-flex to better meet student needs. Many services, including tutoring, writing support, library support, and supplemental instruction, are linked to (or embedded in) specific course sections.
The Law School hired a Professor and Director of Academic Success in 2020 and is building a more robust bar readiness passage program. Support for all law students now spans the full three-year experience and continues after graduation. Faculty have been provided with sample bar exam questions to supplement their other assessment methods. At the end of year one, all students take a bar diagnostic exam that helps the administration and students identify areas for improvement. The Director of Academic Success works closely with at-risk students in the second year through individual meetings and a required legal methods course. The Law School also offers a bar foundations course to all third-year students.
Assuring support for students
The long-term impact of COVID-19 will not be fully realized for several years. In the interim, UMS will pursue creative solutions to keep current students enrolled and bring back those who have left. We will also explore more structured supports for our growing high-risk student groups, and expand the use of technology to communicate effectively across generations— for example, deploying multi-use video content and website chat- bots to support inquiries from prospective students.
UMS may also develop a training/communication plan with academic advisors and faculty so they are better equipped to communicate with students about basic financial matters and determine when a student should be referred to the university Financial Aid office. In addition, UMS may expand Maine high school outreach to increase the financial literacy of high school students and their families and high school counselors.
Data and tables for Standard Five: Students are available in the campus Data First Forms linked below.
- Data First Form for University of Maine and University of Maine at Machias (Excel Spreadsheet)
- Data First Form for University of Maine at Augusta (Excel Spreadsheet)
- Data First Form for University of Maine at Farmington (Excel Spreadsheet)
- Data First Form for University of Maine at Fort Kent (Excel Spreadsheet)
- Data First Form for University of Maine at Presque Isle (Excel Spreadsheet)
- Data First Form for University of Southern Maine (Excel Spreadsheet)