Several private colleges in Maine are reporting increasing enrollment this fall, mostly as a result of expansions into new academic areas.

The University of New England has seen its enrollment explode, tripling from 4,000 students in 2006 to 12,000 today, as it expanded into Portland and the medical fields.

Husson University, traditionally a business school, has expanded into communications with the merger with the New England School of Communications and launched multiple degree programs in medicine. Husson has seen its enrollment almost double in the last decade, from about 2,000 students to 3,699 this fall. About half the Husson students today are in the health sciences.

Thomas College in Waterville increased enrollment by 15 percent in the last three years to about 850 students this fall, after adding eight new fields of study and targeting low-income and first-generation students.

The more prestigious private colleges – Bowdoin, Bates and Colby – have had steady enrollment over the years but are less sensitive to financial pressures because of large endowments and the ability to attract students despite charging almost $50,000 in annual tuition.

The state’s community college system, which has not released fall 2016 enrollment data yet, has seen mixed results at its campuses in recent years. The York County and Eastern Maine community college campuses both had their strongest enrollments last year, while the Southern Maine, Kennebec County, Northern Maine and Washington County campuses all saw enrollment peak in 2011, and decline since.

Education and enrollment specialists note that it is not surprising to see college enrollments dip – particularly at the two-year colleges – when the economy is stronger and more jobs are available.


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