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Maine Community College System

News Release
Maine's Community Colleges Attract Record Number of Students

Enrollment Up 14% Over Last Year

Students Enrolling Directly from High School Up 35%

Wednesday, Sept. 17, 2003
CONTACT: Alice Kirkpatrick
Tel: (207) 767-0116, ext. 3

AUGUSTA, Maine — Maine's seven Community Colleges — now in their first full academic year with their new name and expanded mission — have enrolled a record 11,395 credit students this fall — a 14 percent jump over last year. The number includes all students enrolled in credit courses or pursuing degrees. In all, the colleges are serving 1,372 more college students than this time last year.

Among the students are 8,875 enrolled in one or two year programs, an increase of 16 percent over last year. In the past two years, degree enrollment has increased 35 percent.

Enrollment of students entering the Community Colleges directly from high school jumped 35 percent over last year. In all, 1,665 immediate high school graduates enrolled at the seven Community Colleges — up from 1,233 last year. Of those students, about 100 are receiving scholarships under a pilot program designed for high school students who are academically capable but havenít made plans for college.

"This is exactly what we had hoped for and is excellent news for Maine," said John Fitzsimmons, President of the Maine Community College System. "It just shows the potential of our community college system to open the doors of college to those who hadn't thought college possible," he said.

Governor Baldacci and the Maine Legislature changed the name and mission of the former technical colleges to that of community colleges earlier this year. The colleges assumed their new names on July 1st.

Southern Maine Community College in South Portland recorded the largest increase in enrollment, at 23 percent. Eastern Maine Community College in Bangor experienced a big jump as well — up 15 percent over last year. Central Maine Community College in Auburn is up 12 percent; Kennebec Valley Community College in Fairfield is up 10 percent; Northern Maine Community College in Presque Isle and Washington County Community College in Calais are both up seven percent; and York County Community College in Wells is up four percent.

Fitzsimmons praised faculty and staff at the seven colleges for embracing the expanded mission and serving hundreds more students with limited financial resources. "This enrollment growth reflects a lot of hard work by our employees. Now the challenge before us is to support our colleges financially so they can keep growing and fulfill their potential for Maine."

Fitzsimmons also commended Maine high schools, many of which are seeking new ways to help more high school students pursue college, particularly those who have not traditionally gone on to higher education. "In a way, this reflects a change in how Maine people view 'college'. Nearly half of all college students nationally enroll in community colleges, making them a major access point to higher education. In a state that hasn't, until now, had a true community college system, this is a new way of thinking," he said.

Fitzsimmons also said the surge in enrollment makes Question 5 on the November 4th referendum even more critical. The $19 million higher education bond issue includes $12 million for facility repairs and program equipment at the seven Community Colleges. The bond also includes funds for the University of Maine System, Maine Maritime Academy and public libraries.

The enrollment numbers are still preliminary, but are not expected to change significantly.

Note: This year, the Maine Community College System changed the way it reports student enrollment. Reflecting the broader community college mission of career and transfer preparation and lifelong learning, the System now counts all credit students in its official enrollment count, including those taking credit courses and those enrolled in full programs. Under the technical college mission, the System reported those enrolled in programs as its primary enrollment count. The new reporting method is consistent with other public community colleges and Maine's public four-year colleges and universities.