While the rest of Maine's public universities may be facing declining enrollment, new numbers the University of Maine at Fort Kent just released on Tuesday, January 20, show this small campus nestled in the crown of Maine is continuing to grow at an unprecedented rate.
The most eye-popping increase comes from out-of-state students who attend UMFK on liner. Their numbers increased by more than 110 percentage points.
According to the Spring 2015 Enrollment Summary, Spring enrollments have increased by 16.2 percent from the previous Spring semester to 1236 students. At the same time, full-time equivalent enrollment increased by 6 percent.
Mark Schenk in the university registrar's office said, “I believe we will see more growth moving forward and I am excited to be a part of that here at UMFK.”
UMFK now ranks fifth among the seven branches of Maine's public universities in size.
University President Wilson Hess said, “Funding our universities adequately is important, but showing that the return-on-investment is a vital component to maintaining the public's trust and support for the university system.”
The staff and faculty at UMFK have worked to maintain steady numbers of students entering classes – including a focus on recruiting transfer students throughout Maine. Hess has pressed the university to retain the enrollment base by providing active concentrated support for all new students whether they are arriving newly from Maine high schools, community colleges, or students returning after a long absence from academics.
UMFK offers, “block tuition” which allows students to take between 12 and 18 credits for the tuition amount. The result: students take more credits, graduate sooner, and have less debt.
Some of the growth comes from RuralU, a pioneering partnership with a rapidly increasing number of Maine high schools. RuralU provides high school students throughout Maine's rural communities access to regular university courses at their own high schools through both face-to-face instructions and online.
“We have seen growth in not only our Rural University program but also are seeing more continuing students who are returning,” said Schenk
Another growth area is with UMFK's nursing programs, which the university has modified to accommodate a national mandate for nurses to gain their bachelor's degrees by the year 2020.
UMFK has gained a reputation for a nationally recognized small college sports program – a perennial power in the United States Collegiate Athletic Association (USCAA), with enviable programs in soccer, basketball and volleyball.
The larger numbers of students come to the UMFK campus for many reasons, but any student will say that the reason they come to a particular campus is because it answered one or more of their needs. According to President Hess, “The UMFK community works hard to identify and resolve those needs.”