With its summer enrollment numbers nearly doubling since last year, the University of Maine at Presque Isle has the highest percentage increase within the University of Maine System of students taking summer courses. Officials are attributing the increase in large part to summer online course offerings and efforts to respond to students' needs.This year's summer enrollment is at 886 students, compared to 488 students in 2009, an increase of more than 80 percent from last summer. UMPI officials say the significant increase is due to two major factors - a wider variety of online courses being offered at the campus than ever before and a large number of students throughout the state of Maine and beyond who are taking advantage of these courses because they fit conveniently into their busy summer schedules.
"We are very pleased to be meeting the needs of these students - including UMPI students who are home for the summer as well as students originating from other college and university campuses from within and outside of Maine," UMPI Vice President for Academic Affairs Michael Sonntag said. "It's very clear from these numbers that we have many students who want this kind of accessibility so they can work part or full-time summer jobs and complete their degrees on time in the most cost-effective way possible."
Officials said that students seem to be taking advantage of the University's online courses for a variety of reasons.
"Many UMPI students, like those at other colleges, prefer to take their coursework with their own institution, where they are more likely to know the faculty and the support staff," Dr. Ray Rice, who serves as the Chair of UMPI's College of Arts and Sciences and helps to coordinate the University's online learning efforts, said. "Combined with the fact that our tuition is among the lowest in the state for online courses, with no hidden fees - such as ‘online technology' fees that several campuses have started adding - we not only provide our students with the diversity of coursework they need, but allow them to stay ‘at home' at UMPI and not have to go to more expensive private schools, national for-profit institutions, or more expensive colleges within the University of Maine System."
In addition, the University increasingly is serving more students from out of state and around the state due to its competitive online tuition rates, highly qualified faculty and instructional quality.
Officials said the University especially has seen major increases in student numbers this summer in its Education offerings and Arts and Sciences courses.
"What we're seeing is that students in these areas are taking advantage of upper level courses that previously were offered only during the fall and spring, so they're able to complete their degrees more quickly or take smaller course loads during the academic year. For example, we have Education students who are taking upper level Education courses - both online and live classes - in the summer so they don't have to take additional courses while they're trying to complete their student teaching," Rice said. "In other cases, we have students who are completing their core courses - the courses that students of all majors need to take in order to graduate - so they can focus on the required courses in their specific major during the school year."
Rice said that there are also many instances where students who have had to take developmental courses during the regular school year are taking their core courses over the summer so they don't have to "catch up" later on. This also is the first summer that the University has offered developmental courses, such as pre-college Algebra and basic Science, during its summer sessions.
"Seeing the jump in numbers from last year to this year tells us we're moving in the right direction in terms of providing our students as well as students around the state with the variety and quality of live and online classes that they're wanting to see," Rice said.