Maine adults who want to return to college may qualify for as much as $4,000 per year in scholarships for up to four years, in a new Adult Degree Completion Scholarship Fund announced by the University of Maine System.
The system’s fund aims to help Maine people complete their academic studies — many adults started their university education years ago, but did not complete a degree program for some reason, likely due to family or work obligations.
The new scholarships are for adult students returning to a system university after an absence of three years or more, and who are completing their very first baccalaureate degree. Courses may be taken at any of the seven universities in Maine.
“Maine has over 200,000 adults with some college, but no degree,” explained UMS Chancellor James Page. “That is a significant stranded cost — both in terms of monies invested and opportunities lost. Our goal is to work with these folks to help them achieve their educational goals and move Maine forward.”
The funding for the program comes from a portion of gaming revenue made possible by citizen initiatives that authorized gambling in Bangor and Oxford and a one-time appropriation from the Maine Legislature last year.
Those adults returning to a university will be in good company. At the University of Maine System, adult students age 25 or older currently represent more than 36 percent of all students enrolled in degree programs and more than 60 percent of those attending part-time.
Currently there are few scholarships or other forms of financial aid available in Maine for adults, especially those who work full-time.
“One of the many challenges adults face as they return to college is financing their education,” noted Rosa Redonnett, UMS chief student affairs officer. “Since our goal is degree completion, we’ve set up a tiered scholarship program so Mainers who have previously earned a significant number of credits are incentivized to quickly complete their degrees. And we are also providing smaller scholarships for those who have completed a handful of courses toward a degree, but want to finish that work.”
In addition, a new concierge service has been established to guide students to assist adult students, in the same way that the hospitality industry has concierges to help guide guests to explore a new area. The university concierges, based in 15 Maine communities, will help adult students achieve their educational goals through activities such as applying to a university, choosing a major, finding financial assistance and registering for courses.
“Unlike traditional age students, most adults are also balancing work, family and other commitments,” said Bonnie Newsom of Eddington, a member of the UMS Board of Trustees who also serves on the Adult Baccalaureate Completion Distance Education (ABCDE) committee. “As a result, financial help and the assistance of a concierge may mean the difference between finishing that degree — or not.” Newsom added that the scholarship fund and concierge service are part of a larger, statewide adult degree completion effort under way at the system.
The ABCDE committee was created as a result of a Board of Trustees directive in 2012 to develop and implement a system-wide plan to enhance baccalaureate degree attainment and completion by Maine’s adult and noncampus based citizens. Efforts under way will incorporate consideration of the multiple pathways that students may follow such as certificates, associate degrees and prior learning assessment.
There are three opportunities for students to apply for the scholarships: May 8, Aug. 1 and Dec. 1. Applications can be found here. Applicants must meet the following criteria in order to qualify for the scholarship:
Must be a matriculated student at a UMS institution seeking a first baccalaureate degree.
Must be a resident of the state of Maine.
Must be an undergraduate reentry student who has experienced a gap (three years or more) in the pursuit of postsecondary education. Students who returned to higher education beginning in fall 2013 or more recently will be considered.
Must demonstrate financial need as determined by a completed FAFSA and/or statement outlining ability to pay/financial resources available for education.
Must be registered at least part time: 6‐8 credits per semester (fall and spring) or 9–12 credits total for the two semesters.