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Maine Community College System--News Release

Community College Enrollment Up 5% this Fall; 44% in Three Years Since Mission Change

Despite Enrollment gains, funding constraints are
starting to slow growth, says Fitzsimmons

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Wednesday, September 28, 2005

CONTACT: Alice Kirkpatrick
Tel: (207) 767-0116, ext. 3

WELLS, Me. – Over 3,300 more college students are enrolled in Maine’s Community Colleges since Governor Baldacci and the Maine Legislature established the System from the former technical colleges three years ago, MCCS President John Fitzsimmons told trustees today at a meeting in Wells. Fitzsimmons and the presidents of the seven Community Colleges presented enrollment and other highlights of the new academic year to the Board of Trustees, which met today at York County Community College.

In all, degree enrollment at the Community Colleges has jumped 44 percent — to 10,829 students — since Fall 2002. Equally encouraging, the number of students entering directly from high school has jumped 50 percent during that three-year period. (The numbers are preliminary, but are not expected to change significantly by the official census date of October 15th.)

Despite the positive news of more Mainers going to college, Fitzsimmons said that after two years of double-digit enrollment increases, the constraints of State funding are starting to slow the colleges’ growth. Systemwide, enrollment grew by five percent this fall. In all, 12,567 students are enrolled this fall in programs and credit courses at the seven Community Colleges.

While pleased with the early progress, Fitzsimmons said the Community Colleges — which are relatively new on Maine’s higher education landscape — have the potential to have a far greater impact on Maine’s historically low college attainment rates.

“Raising college attainment is one of Maine’s top priorities, and is key to building a stronger economy. If we are to achieve our goal, we must ensure that our Community Colleges remain fully accessible,” Fitzsimmons said.

Adding faculty and staff, as well as updating and expanding college facilities, are the major challenges before the System, said Fitzsimmons. If endorsed by Maine voters on November 8, Bond Question #6 would provide $5 million for facility renovations — a much-needed investment, said Fitzsimmons. The $9 million higher education bond also includes money for USM’s Osher Lifelong Learning Center, and five of Maine’s public Universities.

College Enrollment Highlights

Southern Maine Community College in South Portland experienced the largest enrollment jump this fall: a rise of 12 percent, to 4,390 degree students. Enrollment at Central Maine Community College in Auburn rose 6.4 percent, to 1,656 degree students. Washington County Community College in Calais and Kennebec Valley Community College in Fairfield also experienced increases — of three percent (to 411 students) and two percent (to 1,381 students) respectively.

Enrollment at Eastern Maine Community College in Bangor declined slightly, by 1.8 percent (to 1,504 students), due mainly to reduced activity at the college’s off-campus center in East Millinocket. In recent years, the Center has served hundreds of dislocated workers from Great Northern Paper Company. The Bangor college experienced a significant jump — 54 percent over last year — of students enrolling directly from high school.

Northern Maine Community College in Presque Isle and York County Community College both experienced modest declines in enrollment: - 4.4 percent at NMCC (to 817 students) and - 3.3 percent (to 670 students) at YCCC.

MCCS Attracting More High School Students

Compared to last year, 7.6 percent more students entered the Community Colleges directly from high school, for a total of 1,908. Part of the increase in recent years can be attributed to the colleges’ name change and more students taking advantage of expanded transfer agreements with four-year colleges and universities.

The System’s Early College for ME program, which targets students who have traditionally not gone to college yet who have the academic potential to succeed in college, has also played a role in tapping more high school graduates. Begun in 2003, the program offers college transition services starting in the junior year, including early college courses, support with the college admissions process, scholarships, and guidance before and during college. The program, now offered in 40 Maine high schools, is the most comprehensive early college program in Maine (and possibly in the nation). Of the colleges’ 1,908 first-year students, 95 enrolled through the Early College program. Governor Baldacci announced earlier this year his commitment to expanding the program statewide.

Trustees Endorse Union Contracts

At the meeting, trustees approved negotiated contracts with the System’s five bargaining units: the Maine Education Association (MEA) Faculty and Administrators Units, the Maine State Employees Association (MSEA) Support and Supervisory Units, and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.

The two-year contracts, which were finalized last spring and ratified over the summer, cover the period of July 1, 2005 to June 30, 2007. Similar to State employee contracts, they include a three percent cost-of-living adjustment on July 1, 2005 and July 1, 2006.

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