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November 21, 2017

Out-of-state enrollment up 14% at Maine's public universities

Out-of-state enrollment at the University of Maine System this fall jumped by 13.9% to 4,846, according to a report presented at the two-day UMS Board of Trustees November meeting that wrapped up on Monday.

Combined with students enrolled under the New England Regional Student Program, there are now 5,727 out-of-state and international students attending Maine's public universities this fall, helping boost tuition revenues at some institutions.

The fall 2017 enrollment report shows a 36% jump in non-resident enrollment in the last five years. Students from outside Maine make up 20% of the 28,997 system-wide total.

Speaking to Mainebiz by phone on Tuesday, UMS Chancellor James H. Page attributed the increase in out-of-state enrollment to universities "doing a really good job" of getting the word out about their key programs, and getting "very aggressive and very creative" in developing solid financial-aid plans for students.

"The fact that we for the last several years have frozen tuition … gave us a significant price advantage," Page said. But he also noted that there is no magic formula and that the situation for enrollment competition remains "very dynamic."

As for attracting more international students, Page also said there is more work to be done amid increasingly fierce competition for applicants. "If you're in Singapore or Malaysia or China or India, you're thinking nationwide," not necessarily about Maine as where to attend college.

Addressing the bigger picture, Page underscored the importance of bringing more young people here to address the state's workforce shortage crisis.

"If we all don't do our parts in solving that, then all of our public institutions are going to suffer," he said. "We're absolutely committed to doing our part in that."

One example is a new World Language Program at the University of Maine at Farmington, due to launch next fall after getting the green light from the UMS Board of Trustees this week. The program will lead to teacher certification for Spanish and French for grades K-12 and aims to address a teacher shortage.

"We live in a global economy," said Page. "We'd hardly be doing our work … if somewhere we did not have access to at least a core set of languages."

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