By Ashley Shurtleff, Staff Writer
Despite numerous changes made on campus and the overall positive experience had by students, the University of Maine at Farmington’s enrollment hasn’t been at par since 2010; the year when the university reached over-capacity.
Working on his ninth year at UMF, Brian Ufford, director of housing and residence life recalls 2010 as being the highest enrollment year since he’s been here.
There were so many incoming students that the school had to turn multiple double rooms into triples. “The demand for housing exceeded the regular capacity housing; the regular capacity beds and rooms that we had available,” said Ufford. “When that happens, we have a contingency plan for double-triple rooms.”
However, Ufford adds that usually with “the no-shows, the group of people that sign up for college but don’t come,” and the “people who they get here and they realize that for one reason or another, they’re just not ready for college yet or something comes up…we can de-triple most of our rooms.”
Turning doubles into triples seems to be a thing of the past for UMF though. “We haven’t had double-triples since 2010,” said Ufford. In fact, housing actually closed down Lockwood Hall this year. They chose Lockwood for two reasons. “The enrollment was looking like it was going to be low this year” and they needed to save money, he said. Also, “we just had fewer students signed up for Lockwood.”
Ufford explained that Mallet and Purington are the residence halls that seem to fill up the quickest. “The returning students all get to choose the hall and room. So, incoming students they can do a preference…and we try our best to match the preference but often times those preferences are Mallet and Purington,” he said.
Lacey Tatosky knows a thing or two about not getting the resident hall she wanted as a first-year student. Now a senior, she was a freshman in 2010. “I would say, in general, I have a relatively large class,” said Tatosky. She ended up in Scott South with one roommate. “I did not like it due to the fact it was an all-girls dorm which I had not chosen to be in.”
Nonetheless, Tatosky is glad that she decided to live in a resident hall. “I thought living on campus was a good way to meet new people and it definitely helped in making friends,” she said.
Ufford wasn’t exactly sure what the enrollment rates of this year were. However, he contributes the lower rates to a couple different things. First off, he believes that the leading factor is that high school classes aren’t as big as they once were. “There’s the smaller high school classes,” he said, “it’s the leading contributor.”
Ufford also believes that our college’s location, small town, and smaller class sizes are reasons that our enrollment rates are lower. “I think Farmington’s a very special place. It has a wonderful academic history…it’s very well-known for instruction and teaching,” he said, “but I think some people find its location to be off-putting.” In addition, Ufford believes that what some people don’t realize is, “you can be in a small town and still accomplish wonderful, wonderful things.” Lastly, he thinks “that people overlook the small student to faculty ratio that we have.”
One more factor that Ufford believes contributes to our declining enrollment rates is that “community colleges are swelling in population” and online courses are becoming more popular.
He acknowledges that community colleges may be cheaper in the short run but “we’re one of the most cost-effective school in the UMAINE system.”
He adds, “in one respect…a lot of people assume that they can go to community college and do their first two years…and get all the pre-reqs out of the way and transfer and do their professional classes for graduation in two more years.” For example though, “if someone wants to be a teacher, they have three years at least at a four-year institution.”
Lexi Noyes and Lindsey Arnold, both freshman and Early Childhood Special Education majors, decided to come to UMF specifically for its teaching program. Arnold strongly believes that it “provides the best programs/classes” for her major, she said in an e-mail interview. Noyes likes that it’s close to home but loves that it’s a “great teaching school,” she said in an e-mail interview.
Ufford is curious to see what next year’s enrollment will be. He thinks it will be “probably about the same.” One thing he’s hoping will continue to bring in new students is the Mount Blue Initiative for housing program. Basically, “anybody who graduated from Mt. Blue can stay in housing for free for their first year…they get free housing for a year.” “We’re looking at new and innovative ways to try and help bring people in,” he said.
Another way that UMF tries to attract more students is by making positive changes. “In the residence halls, we got new carpeting in all the lounges, new paint in the entree-ways,” said Ufford. “Last year, she [President Foster] created a small committee of people who would look at proposals that people had brought forward for improvements on campus,” he said.
The university also spent its Summer under construction for the addition of the geothermal wells. It’s “probably our most significant upgrade. It’s going to end up saving us a lot of money over time,” said Ufford.
“We need to change our curbside appeal; we need to keep the campus pretty, we need to be able to match what other schools are offering because that’s very important when people are looking at where they’re going to live for the next four years.”
“I like the changes UMF has made,” said Tatosky. “I especially like the fact they made the campus tobacco-free to ensure other students do not have to be affected by second-hand smoke,” she said. She added, “I have thoroughly enjoyed my UMF experience overall.”
Noyes and Arnold have also enjoyed their experiences at UMF so far. “I like UMF so far, my classes are good, and the people are very friendly on campus” said Arnold. Noyes feels similarly, the “experience is great! Everyone is super nice,” she said. She even added, “there isn’t really one place [on campus] I like more than another!”