Northern Maine Community College this month reported a 31.3 percent year-over-year increase in fall enrollment, beating state and national trends. Nationally, community college enrollment has declined slightly, while other community colleges in Maine reported a 12 percent increase.
PRESQUE ISLAND, Maine — Northern Maine Community College this month reported a 31.3 percent year-over-year increase in fall enrollment, beating state and national trends. Nationally, community college enrollment has declined slightly, while other community colleges in Maine reported a 12 percent increase.
With growth rates more than double the national average, campus administrators are left with the question of why.
“Several factors influenced enrollment at NMCC this fall,” said College President Tim Crowley. “The Maine state legislature focused its attention on community colleges while recovering from the pandemic. The state passed legislation to offer free tuition and fees to young high school seniors and also allocated funds to expand nursing programs. The discussions surrounding this action—at both the state and local levels—have highlighted the value of community college education.”
According to Crowley, the college also benefited from increased local awareness gained through working in the community. “During the pandemic, NMCC partnered with Northern Light AR Gould Hospital and hosted a vaccination clinic at the college’s Smith Wellness Center for several weeks. The clinics provided 23,000 shots,” Crowley said. “Community members who had never visited NMCC experienced our facilities, our caring staff and the value of our partnerships that support the community in times of need.”
Academic dean Angela Buck attributes part of the increased enrollment to structural changes. “The pandemic has required us to quickly expand online offerings and improve the online learning environment,” Buck said. “While the majority of students were keen to return to campus once restrictions were eased, we also found that some demographics prefer the flexibility of online courses, particularly non-traditional students and parents with children at home.”
Not highlighted in the official October staff count is the college’s significant growth in staff development through short-term non-credit and credit programs, including commercial drives, mechanized logging operations, and residential nursing. “State and federal funding has enabled us to meet demand in these high-wage areas,” said Leah Buck, associate dean of continuing education at NMCC. “For example, this summer we expanded our commercial driving academy to Bangor which has trained a further 43 CDL drivers ready to hit the road and ease the pressure in the supply chain. Through support from the Alfond Center for the Advancement of Maine’s Workforce, we have access to government and private funding to create training opportunities for shorter term training; this supports both companies looking to upskill and the underemployed looking for a new career. We are aiming for similar expansion in all areas that could benefit, and both students and employers are taking advantage of the opportunities.”
Led by NMCC’s Dean of Studies, Matthew Grillo, who will assume the role in Fall 2021, the Admissions and Counseling departments have made a unified effort to improve the onboarding process for new students while meeting the needs of current students. “We work closely with high school graduates who have felt disengaged in recent years,” Grillo explained. “But we don’t just serve traditional-age college students. We work with parents, recent professionals, international students coming to the United States for the first time, and students with learning disabilities. Our employees do not pursue a one-size-fits-all solution. We meet each student where they are and support them to overcome obstacles and continue their education. ”
“No single effort or initiative is responsible for the 30 percent growth in NMCC enrollment this fall,” added President Crowley. “Happiness is when opportunity meets preparation, and our campus has used these past few years to reflect, adapt, and ultimately better serve the needs of our community. We have benefited from local, state and federal support. We strive to be good stewards of the opportunities presented to us and responsible fiduciaries in all circumstances. These are campus efforts that we want to continue.”
For more information on NMCC’s 30+ programs or employee development opportunities, visit nmcc.edu or call the admissions office at 207-768-2785.