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Maine Technical College System

News Release

Wednesday, September, 26, 2001
CONTACT: Alice Kirkpatrick
Tel: (207) 767-0116, ext. 3

CALAIS, Maine—Maine's Technical Colleges are reporting significant increases in enrollment this fall -- ranging from eight percent to 22 percent at the seven colleges. The enrollment figures, which are preliminary but unlikely to change significantly, represent a 12 percent increase in degree-seeking students System-wide.

The youngest of the colleges, York County Technical College in Wells, is reporting the largest percent increase, 22 percent. Enrollment at Eastern Maine Technical College in Bangor increased 17 percent; Washington County Technical College (WCTC) in Calais is up 15 percent; Northern Maine Technical College in Presque Isle is up 12 percent; Central Maine Technical College in Auburn is up 11 percent, and Southern Maine Technical College and Kennebec Valley Technical College, in South Portland and Fairfield respectively, are both up eight percent.

The enrollment numbers were presented by the College Presidents as part of their fall updates to the Board of Trustees at a meeting held at WCTC this morning.

System officials say much of the growth is due to high interest in the Associate in Arts transfer program established two years ago, as well as the creation and expansion of high-demand career programs ñ in multi-media and computer fields, allied health, early childhood education, and other areas. The softening economy is also drawing more students back to school to prepare for new careers.

"This increase is great news for Maine, as well as for Maine employers in need of our graduates," said Maine Technical College System President John Fitzsimmons. He noted that policy leaders have grown concerned, and rightly so, about the low number of Maine citizens with college degrees.

"Clearly the moves we have been making to open the door to college for more Mainers, are paying off -- freezing tuition and increasing scholarships to make college more affordable, updating and adding new career programs, and adding an option that was missing in Maine: the Associate in Arts transfer program," said Fitzsimmons.

In all, 6,554 degree students are enrolled this fall at the seven colleges and the ten off-campus centers they operate. The total number of students enrolled in credit courses this fall rose to 8,839 -- an 11 percent increase over last year.

The Associate in Arts in Liberal Studies program has attracted 1,000 students this fall, up from 600 last fall. The transfer program is drawing students who are still exploring their career options, need to strengthen their academic skills, or want the small classes and one-on-one attention of a two-year college. Like career programs, the liberal arts transfer option is a traditional offering of community colleges.

Students are also drawn by the collegesí low cost. A full-time technical college student pays about $2,040 a year in tuition. And for those with greater financial need, new scholarships are reducing the price even lower. Over 300 first-year Associate in Arts students this fall are taking advantage of new scholarships made possible by a major gift from The Bernard Osher Foundation. Scholarship recipients receive two courses tuition-free.

Colleges hold vigils, blood drives in wake of terrorist attack

Also at the Wednesday meeting, Jana Lapoint, Chair of the Board of Trustees, referenced the colleges' numerous activities to help students and staff deal with the tragic events of September 11th, and to lend their support through blood drives and fund-raisers. The colleges held commemorations and vigils on campus, made counselors available to students and staff, and organized discussion forums.

"Everyone has been touched in some way by this tragedy, and it's heart-warming to see our college communities pull together to provide opportunities to talk, draw strength from each other, and rally together to lend their support. This is the real meaning of community," said Lapoint.

Heritage, Environmental and Adventure Tourism program approved for WCTC

Also at the meeting, the Board approved a new program in Heritage, Environmental and Adventure Tourism at WCTC. The program was developed in response to a rise in outdoor recreation and heritage-related tourism activities in Down East and northern Maine.

An interdisciplinary curriculum combines academic coursework with instruction in outdoor and heritage tourism. Included in the curriculum is preparation for a variety of state and national certifications, including Registered Maine Guide, Wilderness First Aid Responder, and other certifications. Both a one-year certificate and two-year Associate in Applied Science degree will be offered.

Graduates may also take advantage of articulation agreements with baccalaureate programs, including Recreation Management at the University of Maine at Machias, and the Yacht Operations Program at Maine Maritime Academy. In addition, exchange opportunities have been developed with St. Andrews Community College in New Brunswick, Canada.