November 18, 2019

MMA president’s report promising

CASTINE — Enrollment is up. Fund raising is going great guns. Students are landing good-paying jobs. Basically, things are going quite well at Maine Maritime Academy.

Academy President Len Tyler gave this rosy report to trustees Saturday at their quarterly meeting on the Castine campus. He also announced that the academy has reached a unique agreement to use the University of Maine System’s computer system for its administrative records. The academy was looking at upgrading its computer system and was faced with paying as much $1.5 million to get new software and hardware to handle financial aid, students records, admissions files and other school records.

At about the same time, UMS Chancellor Terry MacTaggart said the academy could use the university’s management information system.

“The asset is paid for by the students and taxpayers, so why not spread it around?” MacTaggart said in an interview Saturday. He said the system was glad to share its computer system because it doesn’t cost any more to have more people using the system.

MMA will not have access to university files, and the university system will not have access to the academy’s files. The academy will reimburse the university system for any out-of-pocket expenses it incurs to help MMA maintain its records.

Tyler said the arrangement will save the academy at least $800,000.

The arrangement was not the only good news Tyler had to share. While many public schools in Maine saw their enrollments decline this year, MMA has a half-dozen more students than it did last year, about a 1 percent increase. Enrollment in the University of Maine System declined 1.4 percent from last fall, with some campuses enrolling nearly 9 percent fewer students than they did last fall.

Tyler was particularly pleased that MMA has 81 women among its 620 students this year, an all-time high since the academy began admitting females in 1973. Women still make up less than 15 percent of the school’s student body, but the academy now is able to field women’s basketball and soccer teams.

The recruitment picture also looks bright. Although it is early in the process, MMA has received 25 percent more applications than it had at the same time last year.

“These are small numbers, but it’s a good trend,” Tyler told the trustees.

He said the academy is working hard to meet its goal of enrolling 800 students by 2002. The school began airing a new TV commercial earlier this year, and many high school students are brought to campus throughout the year to learn about maritime studies and MMA.

Things also are going well for the regiment of midshipman, the uniformed students preparing for a merchant marine license. Vince Corry, commandant of midshipman, said the number of students in the regiment has leveled off after declining for years after the Gulf War. Those in the regiment now account for about 60 percent of the student body.

Corry also said that discipline problems have decreased, and midshipmen are receiving far fewer demerits this year than in the past.

“I think we’re doing well,” he said.

Because they go through military-type training and often hold leadership positions, members of the regiment have asked that they receive special recognition at graduation. They have asked that, along with their diplomas, they be given certificates recognizing their participation in the regiment. The academy’s provost is working on making that happen.

The school also is doing a good job of raising money. After September’s christening of the academy’s new training ship, Tyler said, the school received two checks totaling $600 from area residents who were impressed by the ceremony.

Financial contributions to the school are expected to be about 15 percent higher than last year, reported Tom Sawyer, chair of the academic development committee. He also reported that the academy is trying to raise $200,000 to build new bleachers at the athletic field.

There was one downside to Tyler’s report — the academy’s new training ship, a 16,000-ton former Navy ship, makes more noise than its predecessor. Some Castine residents have complained about the drone of the ship’s ventilation fans. Tyler said the fans, which circulate air onboard, will be shut off as much as possible but must remain on 24 hours a day on bitter cold days. The academy is looking at ways to muffle the fans.

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