Maine universities, colleges make the grade as top schools

Prospective students and their parents tour the campus of Bowdoin College in Brunswick in March 2009.
Robert F. Bukaty | AP
Prospective students and their parents tour the campus of Bowdoin College in Brunswick in March 2009.
Posted Sept. 14, 2012, at 6:55 p.m.

FORT KENT, Maine — A number of Maine colleges have once again caught the eye of a publication that ranks higher learning institutions across the nation.

Maine Maritime Academy in Castine, University of Maine at Farmington, University of Maine at Fort Kent, and Unity College were ranked among the top 50 regional colleges in the North, according to the 2013 edition of U.S. News & World Report’s Best Regional Colleges.

Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Colby College in Waterville and Bates College in Lewiston also were ranked sixth, 18th and 22nd, respectively, among the best national liberal arts colleges on the list released by the publisher this week.

The 2013 U.S.News & World Report rankings include more than 1,300 accredited four-year colleges and universities throughout the country. The “Best Regional Colleges” category includes 370 colleges that focus on the undergraduate experience and offer a broad range of programs in the liberal arts and professional studies such as business, nursing and education.

Along with the recognition of being one of the nation’s top regional colleges for the northern region, Maine Maritime Academy was ranked among the nation’s top 50 engineering colleges in the category of “Best Undergraduate Engineering Programs.”

The academy raised its ranking among best regional colleges, north region, from 10th last year to eighth this year. This is the best rating for MMA in this category within the past six years, according to the academy..

Mike Whetston, director of public affairs at MMA, said Friday afternoon that the academy was pleased that it had moved up the list two slots from last year’s rankings. Whetston credited the faculty, staff and students as crucial to the improvement.

Referring to the listing among engineering colleges, Whetson said, “We have been getting a lot of praise for that program. We are pleased with our program, but we continue working to improve it even more.”

This was the 16th consecutive year that the University of Maine at Farmington has made the list, ranking No. 17 in the North region. The college also was recognized by U.S.News as a “Great School at a Great Price” for the second consecutive year.

Kathryn Foster, president of UMF, said that the recognition shows the college’s commitment to providing access to an affordable, quality education.

“National recognition of UMF for 16 straight years confirms what our faculty, staff, students, and alumni are all so proud of,” said Foster. “UMF is a true gem in public higher education.”

Foster said that UMF achieves its national reputation for academic excellence by creating a student-centered environment. The college also keeps classes small in order to emphasize more in-depth learning. There also is a low student-to-faculty ratio, and students are offered a number of outside-the-classroom learning opportunities, which Foster cited as some of the keys to the university’s success.

UMFK President Wilson Hess said that the university was excited to have once again earned the recognition. The institution came in at 39 among North region colleges.

“Folks have known for some time that our small campus has great teaching, actively engaged students, excels in student success, and is part of a vibrant community,” Hess said. “It is great to have those assets confirmed by an organization as reputable as U.S. News & World Report.”

The U.S. News rankings are based on key measures of quality that education experts have proposed as reliable indicators of academic quality. They include graduation and retention rates, financial resources and peer assessment.

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