ORONO, Maine — The University of Maine is implementing a campuswide waitlist for prospective students after receiving a record number of applications for the fall of 2016, university officials announced Thursday.
It’s the first time the University of Maine System’s flagship campus has had to create a waitlist in recent memory, officials said. Provost Jeffrey Hecker said the longest-serving admissions employee, who has been at UMaine for 30 years, can’t remember it happening. UMaine has wait-listed individual academic programs in the past.
More than 14,000 people submitted qualified applications to attend UMaine next academic year. The incoming class is expected to be about 2,150 students, according to the university.
“The interest in UMaine among prospective students is truly exciting and speaks to the value of the University of Maine and Maine itself,” UMaine President Susan Hunter said in a Thursday news release. “Our commitment to providing a high-quality education at an affordable price resonates with students and families.”
UMaine applications have been on an upswing in recent years. The university received around 12,000 applications from students who wanted to start in the fall of 2015, which was up about 1,000 from the previous year, according to Hecker.
Prospective students who opt to join the waitlist will learn by May 6 whether they’ve been accepted. If the flagship campus can’t offer admittance for the fall, waitlisted applicants will be guaranteed a spot at one of the system’s six other campuses, according to the university.
Next fall’s first-year enrollment is expected to be larger than this year’s, which brought 2,048 new students to the campus. Hecker said that over the next couple of years, UMaine would like to increase its incoming first-year class to about 2,400 students.
The university doesn’t want to swell its first-year ranks too quickly in order to avoid overcrowding facilities, overwhelming new students and filling courses to the point where students can’t access the credits they need.
“We’re very pleased with what we’re at now,” Hecker said.
UMaine has changed its recruitment practices and marketing efforts in recent years in an attempt to attract new applicants in spite of a continuously declining pool of Maine high school graduates. The efforts included more visits to college fairs across the region, new marketing approaches and new scholarship opportunities.
As a result, the percentage of students from outside of Maine attending the university has increased from 17 percent in 2010 to 28 percent in 2016.
Late last year, UMaine announced plans for a new financial aid program in which the university would match the in-state tuition of any other flagship university in New England. For example, an academically qualified student from Massachusetts attending the University of Maine would pay the University of Massachusetts Amherst’s in-state tuition rate, rather than UMaine’s out-of-state rate, by receiving a scholarship to offset the extra costs of attending a school outside their home state.
The university came up with the program after learning that 25 percent of the students who were accepted to UMaine but ultimately decided not to attend ended up attending the flagship university in their home state.
Hecker said that program ignited new interest from students in Connecticut and New Jersey, among other states.
The University of Maine System also has been trying to control student costs, freezing in-state tuition for six consecutive years and keeping out-of-state tuition relatively flat as well. It cost $23,406 for an in-state student to attend the flagship campus in fiscal year 2016, including fees and room and board, while an out-of-state student paid $41,676.
Joel Wincowski, UMaine’s vice president of enrollment management, said the flagship campus hopes to continue to rake in high numbers of quality applications.
“Inquiries from prospective students for the class entering in the fall of 2018 are already over 100 percent ahead of last year at this time — from 17,000 to 36,00,” Wincowski said.
This is promising news for a campus that saw about 2 percent fewer students overall this year than it did last year.
Applicants can accept a place on the university’s waitlist by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 207-581-1561.
Follow Nick McCrea on Twitter at @nmccrea213.