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High school students can participate in new UMaine 'Early College' pathways tuition-free

The University of Maine is offering new 'Early College' pathways to high school students. They can take up to 12 credits tuition-free.

ORONO, Maine — Applications are open to Maine high school students who are interested in trying out different fields of study before college by earning college credits for free.

This fall, the University of Maine announced four new 'Early College' pathways, designed to help introduce high schoolers to careers they may want to pursue in higher education. Staff members say soon, they are expecting to announce nine additional new programs for next semester.

Current pathways include:

  • Child Development & Family Relations
  • Go Teach
  • Health and Wellness
  • Outdoor Leadership

Pathways in the process for next semester include:

  • Nursing 
  • New Media
  • Economics 
  • Sustainable Agriculture 
  • Environmental Horticulture 
  • Engineering 
  • Leadership, Politics, & Society
  • General Education Jump Start 
  • Business

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When students take part in this program, they can earn high school and college credits. All public high schoolers are eligible for up to 12 credits per year tuition-free, funded by the UMaine System and Maine Department of Education. All other high school students (private, homeschooled, international, etc.) can receive a reduced rate. 

This program allows teenagers to explore college options before enrolling in school—meaning they'll likely save money and credits and can take classes not offered at their high schools. Courses happen complete online, so there's a wide range of access to students from around the state. 

Early college programming has been happening at UMaine for 15 years, but these "pathways" courses are slightly different, since staff members say they're designed to create a gateway for students to explore a specific career path linked to a field of study at the university. Patricia Libby, the associate dean for UMaine's Division of Lifelong Learning, says about 1,300 high school students enrolled in early college programming last year, and about 87 percent of them earned an A or B. 

"They develop more academic confidence," Libby told NEWS CENTER Maine via Zoom. "They're less anxious about transitioning to college — they demonstrated already to college admissions wherever they're applying that they are capable and ready for coursework."

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Mark Brewer is a political science professor at UMaine at Orono who says he always tries to make room for high school students in his classes. His daughter is a Maine high school student who has taken part in the program, and he says it's been a fantastic experience for her and the family. He encourages everyone interested to apply.

"The early college students I have in my classes generally tend to be among the best students in the class," Brewer expressed to NEWS CENTER Maine via Zoom. "They're very bright. They're very committed."

Rising juniors, juniors, and seniors typically sign up for these pathways but they're open to all high school students. If interested, high school students should fill out an application form, have a guidance counselor approve it, and get permission from their parents. Some classes might require placement tests.

While a goal of the University of Maine is to retain some of these students for higher education, Brewer and Libby say credits can be transferred—but that's on a school by school basis.

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Applications for the spring are open until a week before courses begin on January 25. To learn more, visit the 'Early College' website