GORHAM, Maine — Washington Monthly has ranked University of Southern Maine (USM) #52 in "America's Best Colleges for Adult Learners." 

The magazine ranking sampled 2,114 colleges. The four-year university is the only Maine school to make the top 100 and is one of only eight other Northern New England schools to make the top 100, ranking above Brown and Tufts Universities.

Today, nearly a third of undergraduates in the U.S. are over twenty-five, making it even more important for universities to serve this age group. 

The university was recognized for the flexibility of their programs, the ease of transfer, and the number of services for adult students. 

The rankings also considered the percentage of enrolled students over 25 and the likelihood of paying off student loans.

“We are deeply proud of our adult learners and the life experiences they bring to our campuses. Situated in the economic heart of Maine, our career-oriented academic programs are positioned to connect hard-working adult learners with upward mobility,” said USM Vice President of Enrollment Management and Marketing Jared Cash. 

Mary Swanson

One such adult learner is Mary Swanson, a veteran Marine. 

According to a release from the University of Southern Maine, during her years in the Marines, Swanson was promoted to Sergeant, deployed to Japan and got married and had two children. At one point she had 160+ Marines under her charge. After leaving the military in 2017, Swanson enrolled at USM. Upon arrival she connected with USM's Veterans Services, which supports veterans through college and helps them discover new skills and ultimately a new career. 

Now 27, Swanson is in her junior year at USM. She is pursuing her degree in psychology with a political science minor and is hoping to be accepted to the University of Maine School of Law.

Swanson said that being at the University of Southern Maine helped her find her purpose again. “Like many undergraduate students, I changed my major a couple times and was really unsure during my transition what I was meant to do in this world anymore. I loved being a Marine Sergeant and was at war with myself and everyone around me for a while after I left the Corps in 2017," she said.

“At USM, I have had the privilege to be mentored by so many — not only Veteran Services, which is set up to ensure that veterans do succeed, but from my student group advisor who really gets to know students on a personal level, on up to the Dean of Students and the University’s President, who both have really had an open door policy and offer an ear to talk about the issues." 

For this adult learner, “USM is more than a school, it is a community."

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