Maine’s flagship university eyes out-of-state applicants

College completion drops in Maine at same time high school graduation rates fall throughout Northeast

Students from six nearby states can now attend the University of Maine at the same in-state tuition rate offered by the flagship institutions in their home states.

The university launched its Flagship Match program this spring to boost not just its enrollment, but also prestige.

As completion rates of full-time students in Maine flounder and high school graduation numbers fall in the Northeast (by a predicted 5 percent in the next five years), university leaders look outside the state to fill classrooms.

Applicants from Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, Connecticut, New Jersey and Pennsylvania who hold at least a 3.0 GPA and 1050 SAT score qualify for the match. Students from those states who do not meet the criteria can still earn up to $9,000 in tuition discounts. And applicants from Illinois, Rhode Island and California will be eligible for Flagship Match in fall 2017.

The university offers students from all other states a $13,200 discount.

Participating states are chosen strategically, as the flagship university’s tuition must exceed University of Maine’s rate, says Joel Wincowski, interim vice president for enrollment management.

States are also selected based on the high quality of their university system, as UMaine hopes to improve its brand by association.

Administrators also can be more selective in choosing a freshmen class thanks to an applicant pool that increased from 12,500 in spring 2015 to 14,600 this year, and the elimination of rolling admission for certain programs (including bioengineering, mechanical engineering and nursing).

“By shifting from rolling admission, we can review files at one time and choose the most qualified candidates, as more selective institutions are doing,” Wincowski says.

A firm deadline can also create a sense of urgency among students prioritizing applications.

The program makes the university accessible and affordable for a more diverse group of out-of-state students, who are not eligible for need-based financial aid, says Wincowski. There are 274 minority students enrolled for fall 2016, up from 194 in fall 2015’s freshmen class. A lower price means less debt, and therefore a higher likelihood of degree completion, he adds.

Though it may not be immediately evident, the match program should enrich academic and social discussions on campus.

“Diverse student bodies lead to improved educational experiences,” says David Hawkins, executive director for educational content and policy with the National Association for College Admission Counseling. “Connecting students from different states and regions is an important part of most colleges’ recruitment strategies.”

Colleges define diversity in several ways beyond ethnicity—it can be based on gender, geography and socio-economic status, among other factors, Hawkins adds.

The Flagship Match launch comes shortly after the debut of Think 30, the University of Maine’s effort to encourage students to complete 30 credits per year in order to graduate in four years. The school now offers summer and winter sessions, and year-long online courses to give student more opportunities to earn credits.

Partnered with a strengthened student advising system, administrators believe Flagship Match will produce more qualified workers to meet the state’s job needs.

“The more out-of-state students come to Maine, the more it helps Maine’s economy,” says Wincowski. “Twenty percent of these graduates stay in Maine and build their careers here.”

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