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Maine Community Colleges See Uptick In Enrollment

Eastern Maine Community College

While colleges across the country have struggled to maintain enrollment in recent years, Maine's community colleges are reporting a 6 percent increase in enrollment this fall. Preliminary numbers from the system show that each of the state's seven community colleges have more students than at this time last year.

The biggest increase comes at Eastern Maine Community College, which is up 10 percent compared to last year.

System President David Daigler says the colleges have changed some of their practices to more closely connect with students — like visiting high schools more often and communicating with text messages instead of emails.

Daigler also says the growth is partially driven by more demand for manufacturing and I.T. programs, and he says the system is also partnering with health care facilities to provide them with employees.

“Deliver to them the talent that they need,” he says. “And that's an industry that's in desperate need of additional talent.”

Daigler adds that for some programs, including logger training in the North Woods, student demand far exceeded capacity.

"I think we had to turn away 55 students," Daigler says. "We had a medical assisting program — we filled 40 slots. And we could have done that four times over."

Daigler says the system plans to ask businesses and the legislature for more funds to add additional training programs to meet that demand.

The system will have finalized numbers by next month. Community colleges, like many institutions in Maine, have struggled to maintain enrollment levels in recent years. The University of Maine system reported growth of more than 2 percent last fall. But some public campuses, such as the University of Maine at Machias, have seen enrollment decline.