FORT KENT, Maine — As students settle in for another semester at the University of Maine at Fort Kent, college officials are pleased with early figures that show enrollment is on the rise.
The university announced Tuesday afternoon that enrollment at the northernmost campus in the UMaine System stands at 1,176. That is an increase of 8.8 percent from the fall 2011 figure of 1,080.
According to college officials, UMFK has not seen enrollment figures in the 1,200 range since the fall of 2007, when its enrollment census number reached 1,269.
The number of returning students also has jumped this year over last, this time by 9.8 percent. At the same time, new enrollments of freshmen, transfers and online students have increased from 18 percent in fall 2011 to more than 25 percent since fall 2010.
Wilson G. Hess, president of UMFK, attributes the growth to two years of concentrated effort by the UMFK faculty and staff.
“We deliberately chose to focus on high-impact educational practices — learning communities, especially for first-year students, undergraduate research, and experiential education,” he said.
As an example, environmental faculty at the college tag-teamed with the Maryland-based Howard Hughes Medical Institute on a first-year biology course that tasked students with isolating DNA.
Other students built a greenhouse to conduct experiments on extending the growing season for vegetables.
As such efforts have benefited the students, the college itself has stacked up accolades in the past few years.
Just this month, UMFK was for the fourth time 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. In August, the university was named to The Princeton Review’s list of best Northeastern colleges, an accolade it has garnered seven times before.
Last year, UMFK was one of only 200 colleges and universities nationwide selected as a College of Distinction, a label bestowed on a unique group of colleges and universities that are nationally recognized by education professionals as excellent schools. All selected schools demonstrate four distinctions: They engage students; provide great teaching; exist in vibrant communities; and demonstrate successful student outcomes.
Educators and other UMFK staff have worked hard to improve the college from year to year, adding more academic majors and instituting new programs. The college also is the sole provider of wildland forest-fire training in the state.