Online Degree Programs in Maine

Higher education in Maine is dominated by two public institutions: the University of Maine System and the Maine Community College System. There are seven unique universities and eight University College regional outreach centers in the University of Maine System. The flagship university is in Orono and has nearly 9,000 students enrolled, who can choose from nearly 90 undergraduate majors and more than 60 master’s degree programs, including business, law, engineering, and education. It is ranked among the top national universities by U.S. News & World Report. One of its most notable alumni is Stephen King, the author behind 50 novels, including The Green Mile, The Shawshank Redemption, and The Shining. The Maine Community College System is the state’s comprehensive two-year public college system and offers more than 300 career and transfer programs across seven community colleges.

Maine is also home to several renowned private universities. Bowdoin College was founded in 1794 in Brunswick and today is ranked No. 6 among national liberal arts colleges by U.S. News. It offers bachelor’s degrees in more than 40 departmental and interdisciplinary majors. Given its history, notable alumni span centuries, as well as disciplines, and include former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Melville Weston Fuller, The Scarlet Letter author Nathaniel Hawthorne, former U.S. President Franklin Pierce, and Alfred Kinsey, the biologist who founded the Institute for Sex Research at Indiana University. Colby College in Waterville was founded in 1813, making it the 12th oldest independent liberal arts college in the country. It ranks No. 18 among the nation’s liberal arts colleges, according to U.S. News, and awards more than 50 majors across 30 academic departments.

Unlike most states, both the University of Maine System and the Maine Community College System are autonomous entities, leaving all policy and administrative oversight to their respective boards. Likewise, the state’s private institutions of higher education are governed by their own boards. State oversight of public and private colleges and universities concerns degree-granting authorizations, educator preparation program approvals and renewals, and private-for-profit proprietary school licensure. A major higher education initiative was launched in 2003, not by the state, but by the Maine Community Foundation in partnership with the Maine Development Foundation. Called the Maine Compact for Higher Education, it seeks to increase the number of degree holders in Maine by 40,000 above current projections by the year 2020.

Maine Distance Learning Initiatives

According to the Maine Community Foundation, Maine’s working-age adults have the lowest education and skill levels in New England, and Maine has the lowest per capita income in the region. At the same time, more jobs are requiring a postsecondary education. The Maine Compact for Higher Education aims to prepare students for college, make college tuition affordable, and increase retention rates, especially for adult learners, who have multiple responsibilities that could get in the way of earning a degree. One of the ways it looks to do accomplish these goals is through online degree programs. Its action plan includes ensuring Maine workers earn degrees from Maine colleges and universities with the assistance of their employers, who could provide time off or space during the work day for online college degree programs and courses. In addition, the plan strives to support working adult students by providing instruction at employer worksites, more distance learning opportunities such as for online bachelors degree programs and online degree completion programs, evening and weekend course offerings, shortened programs, more flexible course formats, dedicated academic advising by faculty and peers, and special orientation sessions.

Currently, there are several online degree programs in Maine from which students can choose. The state provides a list of schools with online degree programs in Maine and includes the University of Maine Continuing and Distance Education, the University of Maine Augusta Distance Learning, University College (distance learning through the University of Maine System campuses), Southern New Hampshire University — Brunswick, and Saint Joseph’s College Online. Through these institutions, students can find a range of programs, from single courses and certificates to online graduate degree programs, with more offerings every year. The University of Maine, for instance, is adding online masters degree programs in bioinformatics and geographic information science and technology.