PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — Officials at Northern Maine Community College say a downturn in the economy has led to a growth of students at the Presque Isle college.
College officials announced recently that enrollment is up 13 percent over the same time last year. According to NMCC officials, the number of students signed up for classes two weeks into the spring semester stands at 983, up from 870 last January.
Applications for admission heading into the spring semester at NMCC also were up more than 14 percent.
Tim Crowley, the president of NMCC, said earlier this week he was pleased to see the enrollment climb.
“It is great to see, and we do think that a lot of those who are enrolling are those who have lost their jobs recently because of mills closing and layoffs in other sectors,” he said. “We have had numerous displaced workers turn to the college in recent weeks and months looking to make a new start. These are very difficult economic times and we intend to work closely with our local communities, individuals and businesses to help ensure we do our part to help retool the work force and bolster The County’s economy.
“We hope to get these workers retrained and back into the work force,” he continued.
NMCC and Maine Community College System leaders attribute the increase, in part, to the struggling economy and rising unemployment. During past economic downturns, the state’s community colleges, including NMCC, have experienced an increase in applications and enrollment as individuals have sought to upgrade their job skills or prepare for a new career.
Crowley also attributed the enrollment growth to NMCC’s new program in wind power technology. The first-of-its-kind program in New England is geared toward training wind power technicians.
To date, the college has received 33 applications for admission to the program. An initial course offering in wind power theories this semester had to be expanded to include two additional divisions because 42 students signed up for the class.
“I think that has been a big draw,” Crowley said. “We have seen a lot of interest in that program, which we expect will continue.”
The college also has seen growth in its liberal studies and early childhood education programs.
Demand for NMCC classes and programs extends to the noncredit offerings coordinated by NMCC’s continuing education division.
According to Leah Buck, assistant dean of continuing education, there are 18 people enrolled in the eight-week commercial driving academy session that began on Jan. 26. In recent years, classes typically have numbered closer to eight students.