Fall enrollment up 10.5% at Southern Maine Community College

SOUTH PORTLAND, Maine – Fall enrollment at Southern Maine Community College (SMCC) is up 10.5% in headcount and 16.4% in credit hours, according to numbers released Wednesday by the Maine Community College System (MCCS), boosted by a new Free College scholarship.

“Maine’s Free College initiative, our flexible and accessible programs, and our dedicated and talented staff and faculty who have been working diligently to assist students have had a significant impact on our increased enrollment,” SMCC President Joe Cassidy said. “Our new students are excited to start or continue their educational journey after a difficult few years due to COVID-19. Our free and affordable tuition options allow them this opportunity.”

Total headcount at SMCC this fall is up by 572 students, from 5,435 last year to 6,007 this year, according to an official tally on October 18, with first-time student enrollment up 46.9%. SMCC’s Assistant Dean of Enrollment Amy Lee said the Free College initiative and an increased focus on community outreach contributed to the increase.

“We grew our partnerships with every Maine high school and tech center in New England, hosted several online Free College Info Sessions and heavily promoted the Free College scholarship,” Lee said. “In addition to increased enrollment numbers this Fall, we have already processed hundreds of Fall 2023 Free College-eligible student applications.”

More than 38% of SMCC’s 2022 enrolled students are Free College eligible. Maine High school graduates or equivalent from 2020, 2021, 2022 and 2023 all qualify for Maine’s Free College Scholarship. The scholarship pays 100% of tuition and mandatory fees after grant aid has been applied to student accounts.

Also contributing to the increase in enrollment is the stream of students who enroll at SMCC after participating in SMCC’s Early College program and earn college credit while in high school, noted Matt Goodman, SMCC’s Dean of Academic Excellence and Strategic Initiatives.

“We are seeing more of these students continue on to SMCC after graduating from high school. Opportunities like Spring Ahead, an innovative program in which high school seniors spend the spring semester at SMCC, have seen nearly 100% of students enroll at a college or university the fall of their high school graduation, many of whom enroll at SMCC,” said Goodman.

Additionally, Goodman highlighted that an increased focus on strengthening community partnerships was a contributing factor in growing enrollment at SMCC.

“SMCC continues to engage in innovative collaborations with community partners like the Greater Portland Immigrant Welcome Center, In Her Presence, and PropserityME to help support the career and educational goals of New Mainers, immigrants, and asylees,” Goodman said. “We could not be more excited about these collaborations and where they’ll lead us in the future.”

Increased outreach efforts resulted in students participating in on-campus and online one-to-one or group advising sessions where they enrolled in fall classes and created an individualized plan for success.

“The SMCC Advising Office offered over 2,300 student appointments to new and persisting students between March and July,” Associate Dean of Student Success Kathleen Doan said. Approximately 1,000 of these sessions were with students who were eligible for Free College.

In addition to an increase in those enrolling in degree and certificate programs, SMCC has seen an increase in those enrolling in and completing short-term training opportunities in leadership training, education, and healthcare fields, including SMCC’s new LPN program. These programs benefit students while meeting Maine’s critical workforce needs.

“Our short-term training opportunities are a chance for individuals to earn the skills they need to find gainful employment in an expedited fashion. With many programs offered free of charge and some with attendance incentives, students can get the hands-on training they need while still affording to live their everyday lives, said Jim Whitten, Dean of Workforce Development and the Midcoast Campus. “And, if they decide they’d like to continue their education down the line, our supportive staff will help them determine the best path to take.”

“Our mission is to help better the lives of our students and the members of their communities,” President Cassidy said. “We are more committed than ever to achieving that goal while helping each and every one of our students to achieve theirs.”