FORT KENT, Maine — The University of Maine at Fort Kent’s response to a nationwide shortage of nurses is paying off.
Students are showing a growing interest in both the college’s nursing program and that interest, coupled with economic factors and the appeal of other UMFK programs, has boosted enrollment at the state’s northernmost college, school officials said Wednesday.
The fall semester at UMFK began Monday, and preliminary enrollment figures revealed Wednesday that enrollment at UMFK is up 1.8 percent over last year.
Admissions department personnel said that interest in a number of UMFK programs also is up this year, particularly in the nursing program.
“That is the hot program right now,” Jill Cairns, director of admissions at UMFK, said Wednesday. “We are seeing a huge increase in applications and inquiry about that program.”
“Our nursing program is highly respected and has a great reputation,” she continued. “What is unique about our program is that UMFK nursing students begin taking nursing courses in their first semester. Our graduates also consistently achieve the highest passing scores statewide on the National Licensing Examination for Registered Nurses. We have a great program here, and more and more people are becoming interested in it.”
Richard Cost, the president of UMFK, agreed.
“The campus is packed with nursing students,” he said Wednesday. “There are waiting lists for nursing programs at other universities in the state, but we are accepting all of our applicants who are qualified. Students know this and they know about the reputation of our nursing program.”
Another program that is generating interest is the environmental studies program.
“We have worked hard to get the word out on that, and it has paid off,” she said. “I think that students realize that we have a great lab for that program here. We are surrounded by forests, lakes and bogs so that students learn in a hands-on environment.”
Cairns said interest in UMFK’s computer applications and rural public safety administration programs also is up this year.
The Fort Kent college has attracted more Maine residents this fall, Cost said. The number of in-state students is up nearly 10 percent over last year and a significant number of students who enrolled at UMFK this year have done so after spending two years at a community college, he said.
“That signifies that the system is working,” Cost pointed out. “Students are getting a two-year degree from a Maine community college and then enrolling in a university to spend the next two years getting a bachelor’s degree.”
Both Cost and Cairns also pointed out that preliminary figures show the number of transfer students at UMFK is up 9 percent over last year.
Both attributed the jump to the downturn in the economy and to UMFK’s reputation for providing a quality education.
“People are realizing that they can get a great education close to home, and that they don’t have to go out of The County or out of state to receive it,” Cairns said Wednesday.