PRESQUE ISLE – With the first day of classes just two weeks away, Northern Maine Community College officials already are moving on a project that is expected to help raise the institution’s graduation rate.
This week, NMCC President Tim Crowley joined MELMAC Education Foundation Executive Director Wendy Ault and other officials in announcing details of a student retention program at the Presque Isle college which is being funded by a $150,000 grant from MELMAC’s Support Early Success in College initiative.
The Maine Education Loan Marketing Corp. foundation, a nonprofit established in 2001, supports initiatives that increase educational opportunities for Mainers.
It is valued at approximately $30 million, making it the largest noncollege affiliated education foundation in Maine, according to its Web site.
The goal of the MELMAC initiative is to raise Maine’s college graduation rate by 17 percent between now and 2012.
Right now, NMCC’s graduation rate, 37 percent, is above the national average of 29 percent. Through the retention project, however, NMCC officials have committed to raising that rate by 9 percent in the next three years, James Grandmaison, secretary of the MELMAC board said Monday.
“The board is pleased to support these northern Maine institutions,” Grandmaison said, referring to the NMCC grant and $6,000 planning grants MELMAC made recently to the Universities of Maine at Presque Isle and Fort Kent.
“I’m confident that with Tim’s leadership that it will be successful,” Ault said Monday of the project, which received an implementation, not a planning, grant. “The board felt that they [NMCC officials] were ready to hit the ground running and we didn’t want to hold them back.”
NMCC received the $150,000 grant earlier this spring through a statewide competitive process and has been preparing the project for its first run this fall.
The multiple-approach project includes everything from new support programs for incoming students and extended learning center hours to upper class mentors for first-time students and increasing parental involvement for traditional age students.
Officials unveiled this summer a new electronic parent information system on the college’s secured Web site. Under the system, parents of traditional first-year students with permission may access course grades, financial aid and billing information.
One NMCC official commented that an announcement of the system at a recent orientation garnered applause from attending parents.
Officials are capping off the retention project with two classes they are developing for first-year students and are planning to offer in the fall of 2006.
Most students will take a first-year seminar to learn, among other things, college resources, study skills, and time management.
The other course, titled “Discovering Aroostook,” is an adventure-based learning class that will emphasize student involvement in outdoor recreational activities in Aroostook County.
Dan Hotham, an NMCC English instructor, has been named director of the First Year Experience program.
“We’re committed to making this work,” Crowley said on Monday of the retention project. “It’s important for the growth of our students, for the growth of the college, and for the growth of Aroostook County as a whole.”