Presque Isle – Northern Maine Community College reported a 31.3% year-over-year increase in Fall enrollment this month, surpassing state and national trends. Nationally, community college enrollment has declined slightly, while other Maine community colleges reported a 12% increase. With growth rates more than double state averages, administrators on campus are facing questions about the cause.
“Enrollment at NMCC has been impacted by several factors this fall,” College President Tim Crowley stated. “The Maine State Legislature focused its attention on community colleges while rebounding from the pandemic. The state passed legislation to offer free tuition and fees for recent high school graduates, and also provided funding to expand nursing programs. The discussions surrounding this action—at both state and local levels—brought the value of community college education into sharp focus.”
According to Crowley, the College also benefited from increased local awareness gained through work in the community. “During the pandemic, NMCC partnered with Northern Light A.R. Gould Hospital and hosted a vaccination clinic in the College’s Smith Wellness Center over several weeks. The clinics provided 23,000 vaccinations,” Crowley stated. “Community members who had never visited NMCC experienced our facilities, our caring staff, and the value of partnerships we maintain that support the community in times of need.”
Academic Dean Angela Buck attributes part of the increased enrollment to structural changes. “The pandemic required us to rapidly expand online offerings and improve the online learning environment,” Buck said. “While the majority of students were eager to return to campus as restrictions eased, we’ve also found some demographics prefer the flexibility of online coursework, particularly non-traditional students and parents with children at home.”
Not highlighted in October’s official headcount is the College’s significant growth in workforce development, through short term non-credit and credit programs including commercial driving, mechanized logging operations, and practical nursing. “State and federal dollars have allowed us to meet the demand in these high-wage fields,” stated NMCC Assistant Dean of Continuing Education Leah Buck. “For example, we expanded our commercial driving academy into Bangor this summer, which trained another 43 CDL drivers who will be ready to hit the road and help alleviate supply chain pressures. Through support from the Alfond Center for the Advancement of Maine’s Workforce, we have access to both state and private funding to create training opportunities for more short-term training; this supports both companies who want their skills upgraded and under-employed people looking for a new career. We’re pursuing similar expansion in all areas that could benefit, and both students and employers are embracing the opportunities.”
Under the leadership of NMCC’s Dean of Students Matthew Grillo—who began the role in fall of 2021—admissions and counseling departments created a unified effort to enhance the new-student onboarding process while meeting the needs of current students. “We’re working closely with high school graduates who have felt unmoored over these recent years,” Grillo explained. “But we don’t only serve traditional-aged college students. We work with parents, people returning to the workforce, international students coming to the U.S. for the first time, and students with learning disabilities. Our staff doesn’t use a one-size-fits-all approach. We meet each student where they’re at and support them to navigate obstacles and continue their education. ”
“No single effort or initiative is responsible for the 30% growth in NMCC enrollment this fall,” President Crowley added. “Luck is when opportunity meets preparation, and our campus used these recent years to reflect, adapt, and ultimately better meet the needs of our community. We’ve benefited from local, state, and federal support. We strive to be good stewards of the opportunities we’re given, and responsible fiduciaries under any circumstance. These are campus efforts that we plan to continue.”
For more information regarding NMCC’s more than 30 programs or workforce development opportunities, please visit nmcc.edu or call the admissions office at (207) 768-2785.
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