October 20, 2013

Maine public universities face mandate to get numbers up

As enrollments plummet and competition spikes, recruiters search harder than ever for prospective students

By Noel K. Gallagher ngallagher@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 3)

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Students dine in the cafeteria Wednesday at the University of Southern Maine in Gorham.

John Patriquin/Staff Photographer

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Students and faculty members cross the mall at the University of Maine in Orono last week. Amid increasing competition, college recruiters are focusing on nontraditional students and those from other New England states as they try to boost Maine’s falling enrollment numbers.

Gabe Souza/Staff Photographer

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The schools are also targeting people who may have gone to college for a time but left without a degree. In Maine that’s about 230,000 people, a huge potential pool of returning students.

Lucie Tardif said she never thought she’d be back in college in her 50s.

“I actually was a student at USM 25 years ago,” said Tardif, 57, who dropped out after taking two courses. “I thought I would never, ever be able to come back.”

She was laid off in 2007 after being a paralegal for decades, and couldn’t find work. Unemployment ran out, and she decided to go back to school. After getting an associate degree at Southern Maine Community College, she transfered to USM to pursue a degree in media studies.

“Finally! I graduate in May with the bachelor’s degree that has eluded me for so long,” Tardif said. While the economy drove her back to school, she said, she picked USM because it was close to her home and offered her a good financial aid package.

For older or returning students, USM offers credit for “life experience” that can shave requirements toward a degree. Open house nights explaining the program, and special counseling services, are part of the effort.

Noel K. Gallagher can be contacted at 791-6387 or at:


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Deering High School senior Jenny Chiem is exploring her options and says she doesn’t want tuition costs “to be a burden to my family.”

Emma-Leigh Stevenson, a University of Southern Maine student from Sanford, says family tradition influenced her decision to stay in state.

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Lucie Tardif, 57, a student at the University of Southern Maine, works in the Office of Public Affairs at USM in Portland on Friday.

Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

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Aaron Halls, a freshman from Lisbon at the University of Southern Maine, says a close-knit community is important to him.


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