Enrollment up at Maine’s Community Colleges

The Maine Community College System announced last week that preliminary enrollment figures show a 6.3 percent increase in enrolled students this fall compared to the same time last year.

The increase is in sharp contrast to a nationwide trend of declining enrollments at two-year public colleges over the last several years. The strong showing is due in part to a number of new initiatives at the colleges aimed at attracting and retaining more students. The system also did not raise tuition for this academic year, maintaining the lowest tuition and fees in New England.

As of September 23, the system-wide headcount is up 6.3 percent (an additional 966 students) from the same date a year ago. All seven colleges report increases, the largest of which are at Eastern Maine Community College, up 10.4 percent with 2,141 students enrolled compared to 1,939 last year at this time, and at Southern Maine Community College up 8.2 percent, with 6,078 students enrolled compared to 5,618 a year ago.

At the same time, the system is also seeing a surge of participation in its short-term job training programs which are not included in the fall headcount enrollment numbers.

In the last year, the number of trainees who completed short-term training programs funded by the MCCS Maine Quality Centers (MQC) program has almost doubled to 1,602, up from 897 in the previous year. MQC works with Maine employers to provide customized training that is free to trainees and is focused on strengthening the skills of the Maine workforce.

“We’re seeing significant growth both in our programs that lead to one-year certificates and two-year degrees and in short-term training,” MCCS President David Daigler told the system’s Board of Trustees at a meeting Wednesday in Bangor. “Demand from both employers and individuals looking to gain the skills needed to compete in this new economy is exploding and stretching our ability to respond.”

The high demand for both degree programs and short-term training at Maine’s community colleges is particularly noteworthy given the state’s record low unemployment, aging demographics and widespread workforce shortages. Community college enrollment has historically been tied to the economy, going up during periods of high unemployment and declining when jobs are plentiful.

Fall enrollment increases have been driven in part by initiatives at campuses across the state. Among the new efforts are: doubling the number of visits to some high schools, replacing group orientations with one-on-one orientation sessions; reaching prospective students through texting instead of email; adding new high-demand programs including plumbing, HVAC and esports; and giving students new online tools to communicate with others to increase peer-to-peer connections.

Enrollment numbers for fall 2019 will be finalized in mid-October.

See the full release with graphics on the MCCS website.

Future Teachers Academy: Free Event for High School Students Interested in Exploring the Field of Education

Future Teachers Academy, an event for students who are interested in exploring the field of education, is being hosted by Thomas College and will be held on November 8th from 8:30 am to 1:30 pm on their campus at 180 West River Road in Waterville.

During the event students will be able to participate in a daylong, hands-on and experimental teaching environment, led by professional faculty from the Thomas College School of Education, as well as partners from the Maine Department of Education and Maine Teachers of the Year.

Future Teachers Academy

When: November 8, 2019, 8:00 am – 1:30 pm
Where:
Thomas College
Who:
Open to Maine high school sophomores, juniors, and seniors

Register here

For further information please call (207) 859-1111.

 

Meet the First Cohort of Maine’s Leadership Development Program 

The Maine Department of Education (DOE) recently launched a new leadership program called Maine’s Leadership Development Program (Maine LDP). The initiative aims to build and strengthen instructional leadership skills among Maine’s educational leaders at schools, districts, and across the state.  

A group of 18 education leaders in Maine, including superintendents, assistant superintendents, curriculum and instructional leaders, regional education leaders, Maine DOE staff, and other school and district level staff are among the first cohort of candidates on track to become certified trainers and facilitators of future cohorts. The names, pictures, and biographies of the group of Fellows in the 1st cohort of the Maine LPD can be found here. 

The Maine LDP is a partnership among the Maine DOE and its successful Transformation Leaders’ Network, along with the National Institute for School Leaders (NISL) and their nationally recognized Executive Development Program (EDP). NISL experts are delivering the Maine LDP curriculum and will provide additional training for Maine LDP facilitators. The cohort has already begun its trainings with a session about strategic thinking within systems, and high quality aligned instructional systems in classrooms, schools, and at the state level. The program is a full year commitment. 

LDP Fellow Al Pfeiffer, Superintendent of Vassalboro School Department, had this to say about the training so far, “ Some of the richest, most robust and rewarding professional learning that I have experienced in recent memory. Powerful readings, case studies reinforced with video snapshots, and engaging conversations have left me eager for the next session and future sessions over the coming year.” 

Paul Knowles, an educational leadership lecturer at the University of Maine and the UMaine Liaison to the Maine DOE for this initiative added that, “The University of Maine and the Educational Leadership Department are pleased to partner with the Department of Education for this important work. Personally, I am impressed with the caliber, diversity, passion, and commitment of the leaders participating in Maine’s Leadership Development Program.” 

Maine’s LDP is delivered through a blended learning model and includes study, inquiry, and hands-on activities with practical applications that meet the rigorous expectations for today’s educational leaders. Some graduates from this cohort will deliver the Maine LDP curriculum to future cohorts regionally.  The Department will be releasing an application for those interested in applying to be in the 2nd cohort of the LDP in March of 2020.

Maine High School Students Can Still Apply for Early College Courses 

The University of Maine System released the following message yesterday regarding applications for early college courses:

Maine students and their families still have one week to explore and apply for Early College courses at all of Maine’s Public Universities using the ExploreEC Portal.  The portal is new for the fall semester and classes start September 3rd.  UMaine President Joan Ferrini-Mundy welcomed students and their families to Orono today for an Early College Orientation and urged everyone to share the news that students throughout the state still have to apply now for fall Early College courses.

Apply Now with New ExploreEC Portal:  The University of Maine System launched the ExploreEC portal to allow high school students to explore and apply for Early College courses at all seven campuses with one streamlined application.  Students from 120 Maine high schools and homeschooled students have already used the ExploreEC portal to register for classes this fall and over 300 school counselors have received training and access to support students with the online application process.  Students still have a week to explore and apply at: ExploreEC.maine.edu

Earn $3,000 in Free College Credits with Early College Career Exploration Certificates:  High school students can now explore and begin preparing for careers with immediate opportunities in the Maine workforce.  The Early College Career Exploration Certificates guide high school students as they learn about majors and career options.  Upon completion, students earn a designation on their university transcript. The college credits they earn can save their families approximately $3,000 in tuition costs.  Visit  https://academics.maine.edu/early-college/pathways/ to learn more about the Early College Career Exploration Certificates being offered.

Read the entire media release from the University of Maine System here or visit: http://www.maine.edu/thousands-heading-back-school-early-college/

Class in a Canoe: Early College at Bryant Pond

A student shows the class how to locate their position on the map
A student shows the class how to locate their position on the map

This article was written by Maine DOE Intern Emmeline Willey in collaboration with instructors from the 4H program at Bryant Pond and the UMaine Early College program.

It’s the type of overcast morning that settles in a dewy film over lakeside Maine, where the air hangs thick and heavy and silent canoes prickle with fishing rods. At the end of a dirt road sprawls the University of Maine 4-H Center at Bryant Pond. The rustic campus was built in 1956 and became part of UMaine Cooperative Extension in 2008. Today, it is home to the Outdoor Leadership Early College Program and the students who are pioneering it. 

Students retrieve compasses to be used in orienteering.
Students retrieve compasses to be used in orienteering.

Upon my arrival, I catch a man as he’s sprinting out of the woods. He invites me to follow him back to the rest of the group after he retrieves a black case from a barn. I’m led up a steep hill on a rough draft of a path that opens on a dozen teenagers crouching over contour maps. Statewide Director Ryder Scott greets me in this clearing and explains that the students are finding their exact location using points of reference and geographic landmarks. Their knees are rooted in the ground and their sneakers are dirty; they tolerate the bugs with the nonchalance of camp kids on their second week of wilderness. 

 Scott in discussion with a student.
Scott in discussion with a student.

Minutes later, the group breaks, and the contents of the mysterious black case are revealed: compasses. The students retrieve them in pairs and trail off into the woods. 

This is the sport of orienteering, one of many activities offered through the Outdoor Leadership Early College Program. In this competitive game, players are armed with a map and compass and sent into the wilderness to navigate their ways to checkpoints. Like many races, the goal is to finish in the shortest amount of time. 

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Tara Pocock, UMaine staff member with a background in outdoor education.

“Ryder! I have a question about trees!” yells a student, sprinting back out of the woods with a leaf in hand. They circle around the Ash leaf to take photos like scientists in an outdoor, worldwide laboratory. Shortly after, the rest of the class comes bounding out to regroup before they head to the lake. 

“They’re learning to appreciate the natural world, to be a part of nature and recognize their impact on the environment,” says Tara Pocock, a UMaine staff member and instructor at the 4-H Center, explaining that this understanding of the outdoors is important to help teenagers grow into responsible world citizens. 

Ryder Scott, UMaine staff member with backgrounds in outdoor education.
Ryder Scott, UMaine staff member with backgrounds in outdoor education.

The three-week college course is offered to Maine high school students through the UMaine Early College Program. By the end of the course, students will earn three credits in Outdoor and Adventure Activities (KPE 265). Scott expressed UMaine’s goal to grow this program into a 12 credit outdoor leadership pathway that could lead to a four-year degree from the University of Maine, and support workforce development throughout the state of Maine. 

“It’s experience with real-world consequences,” Ryder Scott tells me, describing the three-day canoe trip the students will be taking next week. “If they misread the compass, if they burn the oatmeal, it’s going to be a bad time.” 

As the students make their way down to the water, discussion can be heard over the importance of wearing synthetic materials during aquatic activities. At the lakeside, the class gathers and student Laura Howe volunteers to give a lesson on proper paddling technique. 

Laura Howe demonstrates proper paddle technique to the class
Laura Howe demonstrates proper paddle technique to the class
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The class reviews the three points of contact necessary to canoe.

Halfway through the lesson, Scott interrupts to point out that the students are all holding their paddles correctly by balancing them on the tops of their shoes. Outdoor environments are conducive to this kind of rapid habit-building and learning via osmosis, as failure to remember instructions will have direct consequences on either expeditions or, in this case, expensive equipment. 

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Liz Dunn (right) says she met Ryder Scott through Oxford Hills’ science program, and became interested in outdoor career paths after participating in a Junior Maine Guide program. She hopes that Bryant Pond and similar programs will help her narrow down her career choices in the future.

The class piles into canoes two at a time. They joke around with one another and hover nearby, waiting for their classmates. Students at experiential outdoors learning centers like this benefit from being a part of Maine and immersed in its enchanting wilderness. High school students can learn and adapt to the environment of the natural world, without missing out on the curriculum of the classroom. The UMaine Early College Program allows students to enjoy an outdoor summer, while still making critical progress toward their future careers and education. 

This fall, UMaine Bryant Pond will be offering another course (KPE 209-Wilderness First Responder) as part of the Early College Outdoor Leadership program. For more information, contact Ryder Scott, Statewide Director of UMaine 4-H Centers at ryder.scott@maine.edu or 207-665-2935. 

The University of Maine will be offering over 40 online courses in a wide range of academic disciplines to high school students this fall. Students across the state will benefit from the flexibility and variety of Academe online college courses. Through a partnership between the Maine Department of Education and the University of Maine, tuition is waived for students of Maine public and home schools for up to six college credits per semester and 12 college credits per year. Fall classes start Sept. 3. Registration is open at umaine.edu/earlycollege. 

Interested students and parents are encouraged to contact Allison Small, Early College Programs Coordinator, 581.8004; um.earlycollege@maine.edu.