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The University of Maine at Orono campus on a sunny fall day

Three campuses in the University of Maine system will offer a new adult degree-completion program starting in January, as well as extended intensive English learning opportunities.

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The University of Maine system is funding a two-year, $750,000 grant program to re-enroll stopped-out adult learners across three campuses.

Launching in spring 2024, Finish Strong will support adult learners with individual advising, specialized financial aid packages and flexible learning opportunities to receive their four-year degree at the flagship campus in Orono plus its Machias branch campus and the University of Maine at Fort Kent.

Who’s it for: The program targets stopped-out college students or those with an associate degree to encourage them to earn a bachelor’s or certificate, says UMaine provost John Volin.

In the state of Maine, approximately 280,000 people started a college degree program but didn’t finish, according to a UMaine press release. From the University of Maine at Orono alone, there are 5,000 adult learners who have stopped out in the past seven years, and 1,000 are within a year of graduating with a degree, Volin explains.

“As a public land-grant university, we’re very tied to helping advance workforce development and economic development for our state,” Volin says. “We feel very strongly that this can help Maine’s economic future by empowering adult students to complete their degrees.”

The program will also benefit Maine’s large population of immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers by expanding the Intensive English Institute and providing culturally sensitive supports.

The program: To participate in Finish Strong, students can enroll in online or in-person courses from one of the three participating institutions, allowing learners to select what best fits their schedules.

Returning UMaine students are eligible for a scholarship of up to $300 and will not have to pay for their second course after registering for their first if enrolled by 2024. The system also provides special adult scholarships for those who qualify.

Every Finish Strong participant will also have a personal adviser, guiding them toward the fastest path for degree completion or the best path for their goals.

Preparing for launch: As the program gears up, university leaders will be targeting former students who were in good academic standing and not enrolled at a different institution, Volin says.

“Really, we need to go one by one to determine exactly what they need to graduate,” Volin says. For example, there are over 200 students from UMaine alone who have earned 120 or more credits but are missing a few key requirements to finish.

The Intensive English Institute will expand to Portland, servicing residents in the southern part of the state. The university will hire an additional instructor, an adviser and a recruiter for the IEI, as well.

Volin hopes the program serves several thousand students in the first two years, but the university has not set an official limit or goal at this point.

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