July 25, 2003
Workers at two of the St. John Valley's largest employers, who recently learned they will be displaced as a result of layoffs, will be given a leg up in preparing for their next career move with the help of the University of Maine at Fort Kent.
UMFK Campus officials have announced plans to offer a tuition waiver on one three-credit course this fall to any employee of Madawaska's Nexfor Fraser Papers mill and Fort Kent-based children's clothing and sleepwear manufacturer Kent Inc.
"We are prepared to help those people who may be looking for new opportunities. Our mission, as a public university, is to serve the educational needs of the people of this region. This is one way we can meet that commitment," said UMFK President Richard Cost.
At current in-state tuition rates, a three-credit UMFK course would cost $369 plus additional student fees. The campus hopes that Fraser and Kent employees availing themselves of the opportunity to enroll in a course of their choice will both learn about the college experience, as well as possibly find a university program that interests them and could lead to a new career.
"It is crucial that UMFK, and other higher education institutions, be prepared to work with people affected by a downturn in the economy. When jobs become scarce people seek the skills they will need to take advantage of better opportunities that lie ahead," said Cost.
The tuition waiver on a three-credit course is the first step university officials have outlined to assist Fraser and Kent workers. UMFK is also opening its doors to any displaced employees who are seeking information on what options exist for them in higher education.
"We welcome any Fraser and Kent employees who have any questions about attending college. We can provide information about various programs and which ones might be best suited for each individual; discuss requirements, possible courses of interest, and what financial aid opportunities might exist," said Melik Khoury, UMFK director of admissions. "The admissions office is committed to sitting down with any of the workers who just want to know what's available."
According to Khoury, his office is currently prepared to meet individually with any employee contacting the admissions office.
This will not mark the first time UMFK extends an offer of assistance to displaced St. John Valley workers. When the Fort Kent textile facility was slated for closure by prior owners Gerber's Childrenswear in 1996, the university worked with several employees at the plant, enrolling them in courses.
Even with the re-opening of the plant under the name Kent, Inc. a few months after the Gerber closure, a number of workers enrolling in classes continued their studies at UMFK, some finishing two and four-year degree programs.
Fraser and Kent employees looking for more information on the three-credit tuition waiver or for counseling on options in higher education are encouraged to contact Khoury at (207) 834-7600 or toll free at 1-888-TRY-UMFK.