The Maine Department of Education and the University of Maine at Fort Kent have announced a first-of-a-kind partnership to expand the number of options Maine students have to earn college credit while still in high school. This partnership was celebrated Wednesday, Sept. 23 at 3 p.m. in the Cabinet Room at the State House where Governor LePage hosted Acting Deputy Commissioner Rachelle Tome, Program Specialist Abby Manahan, Retired UMFK President Wilson Hess, and UMFK’s Scott Voisine, Dean of Community Education. Maine DOE’s Acting Commissioner Tom Desjardin was also able to join for the event.
“We need to start looking ahead; I don’t want to lose the kids,” said Governor Paul R. LePage. “This partnership goes up and beyond the normal status of education in Maine.”
Starting this fall, high school students enrolled in 17 advanced placement (AP) courses throughout the state via the Maine DOE’s online AP4ALL program will have the option to be dually enrolled in those courses via UMFK’s Rural U program.
Dual enrollment is defined as the opportunity to earn college credit for a high school course with an approved course syllabus meeting college course standards and a teacher approved as a college adjunct instructor. By adding the dual enrollment option to eligible AP4ALL courses, high school juniors and seniors can choose to earn credit by passing the final AP exam and receiving a grade for the course from UMFK, becoming part of an official college transcript.
UMFK’s Rural U program, serves nearly 500 students in 78 Maine high schools, and Maine DOE’s AP4ALL program serves approximately 400 students. By joining UMFK’s Rural U, this partnership creates additional opportunities for students who are geographically dispersed across the state.
Retired UMFK President, Wilson Hess said, “There are two extraordinary components to this agreement. One is breaking barriers to costs and loan debt and the other is this partnership is designed for the most remote and rural and any size population.”
In 2012, the Maine DOE rolled out Education Evolving, the State’s strategic plan for putting learners first. This plan centers around five key goals, one of which is multiple pathways for learner achievement, which includes advancement based on demonstration of mastery and “anytime, anywhere” learning. Speaking at a Cabinet Room celebration this week, Acting Deputy Commissioner Rachelle Tome said, “In an effort to address this goal, Maine DOE has been working diligently to implement a variety of strategies, including AP4ALL, designed to increase opportunities and access for Maine’s students.”
This movement follows the Governor’s initiative slated to take effect in June 2016 allowing students to transfer up to 35 credits between institutions of higher education as a way to reduce costs and ease educational mobility for students. Desjardin noted, “On the heels of this move comes the AP4ALL and UMFK’s Rural U program opportunity for juniors and seniors to explore what college level courses would be like while still in high school and earning college credits simply by passing qualifying courses, potentially saving them tuition dollars in the future,” said Desjardin.
Early college, AP and dual enrollment have been proven to improve college aspirations, to provide a more affordable pathway to a college degree, and to improve students’ success once in college. Scott Voisine, UMFK’s Dean of Community Education and administrator of Rural U says, “We are pleased to be partnering with AP4ALL to expand opportunities for Maine’s rural high school population.”
In 2007, the Department launched AP4ALL providing digital learning opportunities free of charge to Maine students residing in a school district who are educated at the public expense. Abby Manahan, program specialist for Maine DOE also spoke at the celebration about the program’s growth. “Mirroring national trends in the growth of online learning, enrollment in the AP4ALL program has grown significantly from 2007-2008 when it offered six courses with 44 enrollments, to five additional courses and 100 enrollments in just one year. This growth followed by 187 enrollments in 14 courses during the 2009-2010 school year. And this fall, AP4ALL opened with 22 courses and approximately 400 enrollments.”
Now with this partnership, these students can begin their college career. “Maine is lucky to have such a high quality program that brings AP courses to high school students who would have no other way to take these classes,” asserts Maine DOE’s Learning Through Technology Director, Mike Muir. “We’re excited that we can now expand this opportunity by allowing students to get an early taste of college and earn their first college credits that can be transferrable to any campus within the University of Maine System.”
In closing the celebration, the Governor said, “The whole purpose of this partnership is to invite students to challenge themselves.”