Unity College expects to welcome its biggest incoming class and highest overall enrollment in its 51-year history this fall, the school announced Thursday.

About 700 students will be enrolled in the school, which is up 7.7 percent from last year’s 665 students. Unity, which specializes in sustainability science education, opens for classes Aug. 29.

A $20 million buildout the past several years, new faculty, a first-ever master’s online degree program, new faculty and a new academic structure all have helped drive the increased enrollment as well as set up the school for the surge of students who are attracted by the school’s science sustainability curriculum, according to the release. The school opened in 1965 with 39 students.

Unity College President Melik Peter Khoury said in the release, “It surprises some people, who think we’re just a little private college in rural Maine. The reality is, there is a hunger out there for well-rounded education, grounded in science and informed by the humanities and liberal arts. By offering small class sizes, individual mentoring, transdisciplinary research, and hands-on field work, we are in high demand. It’s a recipe that confers real advantages on our alumni and students as they assume the mantle as the next generation of environmental leaders.”

Khoury said the school anticipated the enrollment surge based on higher numbers of applications over the last several years and restructured to support a larger student body. “We are ready to welcome them when they arrive,” he said.

In the past six months, the school has invested $6 million in two new student support buildings, both of which will open this month; repurposed two signature campus buildings to serve as academic and student support facilities; hired eight new full-time faculty; and created a master’s in professional science degree, the first-ever graduate degree at Unity College and the first time the college has offered its curriculum online, the release said.

The college is also reorganizing its academic unit into two schools – the School of Environmental Citizenship and the School of Biodiversity Conservation – replacing five academic centers.

“The new academic structure is designed to create the space for faculty to rethink the way higher education is delivered, to maximize benefit for students,” Khoury said in the release. “The realignment better matches our educational framework of sustainability science, harmoniously blending theory and practice to prepare a well-rounded student. “This restructure was completed from a position of strength, maintaining all of our current majors. In fact, we added new faculty to ensure that our families’ investment is honored and quality is uncompromised.”

The school invested more than $9 million in local vendors during the 2015-16 academic year and its multi-year campus buildout has employed hundreds of local contractors and used products and services from dozens of Maine vendors, according to the release.

Projects over the last four years have included:

• Construction of two $4.4 million fossil-fuel-free residence halls that opened in 2013 and 2014;

• A $1.1 million cafeteria expansion, completed in 2014;

• Renovations to the Higgins Wing of the Student Activities Center;

• Construction of a new outdoor deck and dining area;

• Repurposing two signature buildings – Unity House and TerraHaus – into classroom and student life space;

• A $6 million expansion that includes a new academic building with classrooms and student success center, and a new fossil fuel-free residence hall exclusively for first-year students.

On the academic side, the school faculty and students “in the past two years have gained national and international attention for the discovery of a new species of microscopic animals that could have seismic impact on human habitat, acted as a national resource on issues of captive wildlife care and research, and conducted nationally recognized studies of the iconic Maine black bear that created a wealth of data for species management.”

Khoury said the college “is in a unique position to lead industry change, not only in sustainability education but in higher education more generally.”

“People outside of Unity College think I’m joking when I say our goal is simply to change the world. But we’re doing just that, one student at a time,” he said in the release.

While there have been a lot of “exciting changes” on campus, Chief Student Success Officer Sarah Cunningham said in the release, “One thing that doesn’t change is that Unity College is a home for students who value the close-knit community we create together. As we welcome more students into the family, we are also hiring the team to support them – counselors, coaches, tutors, and more – which will help us give each student the attention he or she deserves and the support to help them make good choices, overcome challenges, and achieve success as a Unity College student.”