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September 7, 2023

'Free College' program offer spurs enrollment gain at Southern Maine Community College

aerial of college campus and water Courtesy / SMCC Southern Maine Community College is the system’s oldest, largest and most diverse college, with more than 6,000 students.

Fall enrollment is up 15% at Southern Maine Community College, thanks to a free scholarship program. 

The Maine Community College System said the numbers were boosted by the Free College Scholarship offer. 

The Free College Scholarship, announced in April 2022, covers all tuition and mandatory fees for full-time students who graduated from high school or passed an equivalency exam in 2020-23. The Free College program was funded with a one-time $20 million state allocation.

Courtesy / SMCC
Tiffanie Bentley

"SMCC's participation in the transformative Free College program is immensely rewarding," said Tiffanie Bentley, SMCC interim president. "Our increased enrollment reflects the access that is being provided to many individuals who may not have otherwise been able to attend college."

The cost of tuition and mandatory fees at Maine’s community colleges averages $3,700 a year.

"Receiving the Maine Free College Scholarship to attend a great school like SMCC was a game changer for me,” said Adam Savage, a first-year biotechnology major and student-athlete.

"This incredible opportunity allows me to save money for my future while being a full-time student, something that wouldn't be possible previously. I am incredibly thankful for the ability to earn my two-year degree at such a low cost."

The total headcount at SMCC this fall is up by 765 students, from 4,967 last year to 5,732 this year, according to an official tally on Aug. 29. This number does not include early college students, Maine high school students who are dually enrolled in their high school and SMCC simultaneously during their senior year.

The MCCS report details fall enrollment is up 18% collectively at all of Maine's community colleges. MCCS says a new scholarship for recent high school graduates, an expanded program and an easing of pandemic-related restrictions boosts it. A final tally of the fall enrollment will be determined on Oct. 15. 

"SMCC provides a supportive environment to help students navigate the obstacles they face, ultimately achieving their success," said Bentley. "We are proud to see students go on to continue their education or work in their communities in a multitude of capacities."

Southern Maine Community College is the system’s oldest, largest and most diverse college offering 40-plus programs of study at the Portland and Brunswick campuses to more than 6,000 students. 

SMCC was ranked No. 4 among Maine's largest colleges and universities in the 2023 Mainebiz Book of Lists, based on full-time undergraduate enrollment in fall 2022.

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