UMM’s Early College program for high school students sees significant expansion 

The University of Maine at Machias has become a leader in providing high school students a leg up through the Early College program, and this semester, a record number are participating. 

Enrollment is up 40 percent from last year in the recently revamped program at UMM that offers nine different college certificates, each geared toward a unique career pathway — health professions, business, STEM, teaching, psychology, recreation, liberal arts or career exploration. High school students earn the certificates by taking college classes, many of which are online, making the program accessible to students across the region. 

Early College is offered at University of Maine campuses statewide, but Machias is the first to cover all tuition, fees and books for juniors or seniors maintaining at least a B average. Sophomores can participate by paying half of these costs. UMM’s Early College program also is the only program in the University of Maine System to provide assistance with transportation and free rooms for certificate earners who matriculate right after graduation. 

Guidance counselor Leah McLean says she has noticed markedly growing interest among the students she works with at Shead High School in Eastport. The number of Shead students enrolled in Early College courses doubled in one year from seven in 2016 to 15 in 2017. 

“For many years, our Early College students were juniors and seniors in the top 10 percent of their class,” she says, “and we may have had four to five students accessing this resource each semester.” 

This year, she says, interest in the program has spread to sophomores, and students are now choosing to take a greater number of college courses over the course of their high school careers. Many students have moved on to full-time enrollment at UMM. 

“As a junior in high school, I had no idea what I wanted to go to college for,” says Amber Davis, a graduate of Narraguagus High School in Harrington who completed Early College classes at UMM tuition-free during her last two years of high school. She started college with a full semester of credits on her transcript. 

Now a full-time psychology and community studies major at UMM, she credits the program with helping her select a career path and prepare for an undergraduate workload. 

“Early College allowed me to take classes that interested me and learn what my potential career might be,” Davis says. 

A full-time student majoring in English at the University of Southern Maine, Hailey Wood earned 25 college credits through UMM’s Early College program while attending high school at Washington Academy in Machias. The program helped her save on tuition, she says. 

Like Davis, Wood benefited from starting college ahead of her peers. 

“Whereas a lot of my friends are taking 16 or 17 credits this semester,” she says, “I’m taking 13 and getting more used to managing my time.” 

According to a survey of college completion rates from the Chronicle of Higher Education, only 28.3 percent of college students in Maine are able to complete their degree in four years, while only 47.8 percent of students have earned their degree after six years. 

“At UMM, we know first-hand how challenging it can be for students to complete their four-year degrees. We also know how important that degree can be when it’s time to find a satisfying career that can support a family,” says Christy Alley, UMM’s Early College advisor. “Students who enter college with a year’s worth of credits have an advantage when it comes to graduating on time and entering the workforce.” 

For more information about the Early College program, contact UMM’s Early College coordinator Christy Alley, 255.1268;