USM-SMCC agreement eases transfer between schools

Posted on October 28, 2003 in News
By Sam Geer

On October 17, University of Southern Maine President Richard Pattenaude and Southern Maine Community College (SMCC) President James Ortiz signed an agreement that guarantees admission at USM to SMCC students with associate’s degrees. The ceremony, held at SMCC’s McKernan Center, made official the first of several identical agreements that USM intends to form with York County (YCCC) and Central Maine Community Colleges (CMCC). Under the agreement, those who transfer from SMCC enter USM as juniors and may register concurrently with matriculated upperclassmen. “This agreement with Southern Maine Community College was developed to ensure students a smooth transition from two-year to four-year academic programs. The focus of our programs is different, but our campuses share a common mission, which is to expand educational opportunities for the people of Maine,” said Pattenaude.

USM has articulation agreements in place with SMCC, YCCC, and CMCC that ensure that their student’s credits will count should they transfer to USM. USM already has a policy of accepting transfer students who hold two year degrees from accredited schools. The new agreement eliminates much of the time-consuming admissions paperwork. Now, a community college student only has to meet with a transfer advisor to determine their USM major and provide a letter of intent.

“Nationwide, this is very, very typical,” said Rosa Redonnett, vice president for enrollment management at USM, “Ours is probably a bit more restrictive because the community colleges are still developing.” Maine is one of the last states to erect a community college system, and is in the process of adapting its technical colleges to fill that role. The stated goal of the new Maine Community College System is to accommodate 10,000 to 11,000 more students annually by 2010. Redonnett described this agreement as a “baby step” towards a more mature network of higher learning institutions.

The agreement will ease the way for transfer students like Katherine O’Donnell. O’Donnell, a business and technology major at SMCC will start at USM this coming Jan. “To be able to go to a two year school at a lesser price and then transfer to the University with this seamless agreement we now have, I think is wonderful,” said O’Donnell who picked SMCC because she did not have a clear career goal coming out of high school. Her time at SMCC helped clarify her interests and has inspired her to seek a bachelor’s degree. “I have realized that to basically do anything in my field, I need a bachelor’s degree,” said O’Donnell.

Financial concerns often figure heavily in the decision to attend community college. According to the American Association of Community Colleges, nearly 50 percent of community college students work full time. Community colleges tend to schedule classes at times convenient for employed individuals. This consideration led Tammy Quimby, a Liberal Studies major at SMCC and a single mother, to enroll at SMCC following her discharge from the Air Force in October 2002. “I don’t have a lot of time on my hands,” said Quimby, “I have to schedule my classes around my son’s daycare.” She plans to enter USM in the fall 2004 semester. Quimby wants to be a Communication major at USM because that program will honor some of her military credits.

The new agreement offers the seamless transition only to liberal arts majors at SMCC, and does not guarantee admission into specialized majors such as nursing, sports medicine or engineering. The new agreement provides a strong incentive for liberal arts students to attend community college for two years. Students can attend SMCC for around half the cost of USM.

Charles Lyons, president of the University of Maine at Augusta and vice chancellor of the University of Maine system, forecasts that a more extensive community college system could lead many students to attend Maine’s public universities only as upperclassmen.

Sam Geer can be reached at freepress@usm.maine.edu