Maine community colleges see 12% more students with free college offer

Maine’s seven community colleges will see 12% more students on campus this fall as a new state program that allows recent Maine high school graduates to attend community colleges free for two years takes effect.

Some 12,765 students had registered for the fall semester at the state’s seven community colleges as of Thursday, according to the Maine Community College System. This represents an increase of more than 1,400 students, or 12.4%, from last fall’s early enrollment of 11,359 students.

Community colleges in Maine also expect thousands more early adopters — high school students enrolled in community college courses — to enroll in the coming weeks. Final fall enrollment numbers are counted on October 15.

The surge in community college enrollment contrasts with early enrollment numbers at public universities in Maine, which forecast about 5.7% fewer students on their campuses this fall compared to a year ago. The decline in enrollment among new college students is even more pronounced, matching a national trend of fewer students enrolling in college during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Of the total fall enrollment at Maine community colleges, 42% — 5,399 students — are eligible for the Free College Scholarship, which allows high school students in Maine who graduated during the COVID-19 pandemic to attend community college free for two years.

Gov. Janet Mills’ supplementary budget, which passed in April, contained $20 million to ensure Maine high school students graduate in 2020, 2021, 2022 and 2023 who enroll full-time in the one of Maine’s seven community colleges this fall and then attend for free. The state program covers costs that existing scholarships and financial aid do not cover.

“We deeply appreciate the support of the state in funding the Free College, and we look forward to seeing these students, who otherwise might not have continued their education, flourish and be successful in pursuing their goals,” Maine Community College System President David Daigler said. Friday.

If a 2020 or 2021 graduate is already attending a community college, the free college program would cover the costs for the upcoming year and the next. It would not apply retroactively to cover the costs of completed semesters.

The new program has motivated some recent Maine high school graduates to accelerate or modify their higher education plans to take advantage of the free education opportunity.

The fall semester begins Monday at Central Maine Community College in Auburn, Eastern Maine Community College in Bangor, Northern Maine Community College in Près Isle, Southern Maine Community College in South Portland and York County Community College in Wells.

Students at Washington County Community College in Calais begin classes on Wednesday, and Kennebec Valley Community College in Fairfield begins Sept. 6.

Colleges offer a range of two-year diploma programs, one-year certificate programs, and short-term workforce training courses that last between a few weeks and less than a year.

The average cost of tuition and compulsory fees at community colleges in Maine is $3,700 per year, according to the Maine Community College System.

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