BANGOR, Maine — Eastern Maine Community College has increased its enrollment by nearly 30 percent over the past three years, from 3,316 students in 2011 to 4,228 in 2014, the college announced on Wednesday.
College officials attribute the increase to eight new associate degree programs that have been added during that time, necessitating an increase in the number of full-time faculty from 54 to 68.
The new programs range from hospitality and tourism to fire science, fine woodworking and cabinetry, criminal justice and a couple of medical technology programs, among others.
“We have aggressively focused the campus around student success and have bolstered the availability and frequency of student services such as academic advising, mentoring, tutoring and developmental courses,” EMCC President Lawrence Barrett said in a prepared statement.
EMCC’s growth echoes enrollment trends across the Maine Community College System, which has increased by 23 percent over the past five years, according to the system’s website. Since the seven colleges changed from being technical schools to a community college system in 2003, enrollment has increased by 80 percent.
The enrollment increase comes even though student populations at Maine high schools are on the decline, according to Maine’s Department of Education. This fact is often cited to account for declining enrollment at the University of Maine System’s campuses, as well, along with competition from other schools such as community colleges.
University of Maine economics professor Philip Trostel said that it’s common during difficult economic times for community college enrollments to increase.
“Going to college is expensive, especially when going means you have to take off time from work,” he explained. Maine’s community colleges cost $90 per credit hour compared with $279 per credit hour for an in-state student at UMaine.
Trostel said that when it’s hard to find a job, some people see an opportunity to go to school, and they’re likely to look for an affordable option.
Barrett said that the college is constantly working with UMaine, Husson University and the University of Maine at Augusta, which has a campus in Bangor, to ensure transferring to one of those universities is a seamless process.
“People have become more and more aware of the option to do that,” he said, which also accounts for the increase in enrollment.
“It’s affordable, and there’s quality there because people can transfer,” he said.
The community college system’s publications and marketing coordinator, Karen Hamilton, said that over 700 students from Maine’s community colleges transferred to the University of Maine System during the 2013-14 school year.