Central Maine community colleges see spike in fall enrollment

An aerial view in July 2019 of Central Maine Community College in Auburn. The school is experiencing a peak in enrollment for this fall. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal File

Community colleges in central Maine are seeing an increase in enrollment this fall, thanks in part to a state program allowing recent high school graduates to attend tuition-free.

At Central Maine Community College in Auburn, 47% more students enrolled for the fall semester compared to the same time last year, according to associate dean of enrollment management Andrew Morong. At Kennebec Valley Community College in Fairfield and Hinckley, enrollment rose 12%.

Statewide, the Maine Community College System saw 11% more applications, slightly more than in 2019, according to the Portland Press Herald. Last year, enrollment was down 13% from fall 2019.

Rising sophomores Emily Strachan of Lewiston, left, Ryan Crockett of Old Orchard Beach, center, and Kali Thompson of Waterville huddle April 26 in the dining halls of Central Maine Community College in Auburn. File photo by Andrée Kehn/Sun Journal

Maine’s free tuition has had a very big impact on CMCC’s increased enrollment, Morong said, noting that the college is on track to approach or surpass its enrollment record of 3,200 students at the college. Fall 2019. The college has already exceeded 3,000 applications, a major benchmark for admissions.

Students eligible for the two years of free tuition are those who have graduated from high school or earned their GED or equivalent high school diploma from 2020 to 2023. They can enroll in the one of seven community colleges, but must complete a full-time degree program. .

The free college scholarship covers tuition and other mandatory fees for two years, but not the cost of books, supplies, and room and board.

At CMCC, many programs have 50% or more students enrolled for the fall than last year, including Automotive Technology; business management and administration; graphic communication; electrical mechanical technology; architecture and civil engineering; heating, ventilation and cooling technology; and Life Sciences, a track that prepares students for advanced studies in medicine, pharmacy, and dental careers.

Morong attributed CMCC’s success in part to a strong marketing campaign designed even before Governor Janet Mills approved the program. The school was ready with statewide advertisements in print, social media, television and even on streaming services by the time the bill was signed into law.

The number of scheduled campus visits has been “ridiculous”, Morong said, and dozens of rising high school students have verbally pledged to attend the school because of the state scholarship. The admissions office even receives a dozen calls each week from parents hoping the program will extend to their children, who will graduate too late to take advantage of the program.

Kennebec Valley Community College in Fairfield completed a 2,000 square foot lab in February 2021 that expands its ability to train students in heat pump installation and repair. Community colleges across the state are seeing an increase in enrollment, in part due to a new state tuition program. Photo courtesy of KVCC


Although the number of applications fell 3% from the previous academic year, enrollment at KVCC increased 12%, according to college data.

Enrollment for the upcoming academic year is 250 students, while for the 2021 academic year it was 223, closer to the enrollment rate it had before the pandemic, at 360 students.

CJ McKenna, the dean of student affairs and enrollment at KVCC, said applications typically spike during August, a month before the start of the fall semester, but they anticipate a big “bump” in the program. free university. He said this year it might be hard to tell if the rise came from the free college initiative.

Since free college only applies to recent high school graduates and the average community college student is 27 years old and between 17 and 60 years oldthe initiative only applies to specific students, but it’s been “very popular” among high school graduates, McKenna said.

“Without the initiatives, we would still be enrolled, but now it puts us on a short list of colleges people can choose from, maybe more than they would have a few years ago,” McKenna said.

Even if students are not eligible for free college, they could earn enough financial aid to bring the cost down to a more affordable rate.

The Maine Community College System says it has the lowest tuition fees for New England Community Colleges. Tuition would normally be $2,880 per year for in-state students or $5,760 for out-of-state students.

The seven community colleges in Maine are: Eastern Maine Community College in Bangor, Northern Maine Community College in Près Isle, Southern Maine Community College in South Portland and Brunswick, Washington County Community College in Calais, and York County Community College in York, in more from the CMCC. and KVCC.

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