By Erica Jones
It has been a recent campaign by the University of Southern Maine to address its dwindling enrollment numbers and high student withdrawal rates, through recent efforts made such as the Enrollment Management program being founded in 2015 to improve student retention, and with a modern rebranding of the school’s image as “Maine’s metropolitan university” to attract prospective students.
But while enough students transfer, withdraw, or drop out of USM to provoke action from the university, particularly in the middle of the year between the fall and spring semesters, USM also receives many new transfer students each year arriving for the spring semester. So why are there so many students leaving USM, but also so many coming here for the second half of the year?
USM’s varied student demographics is useful to keep in mind when answering these questions. Over half of the undergraduate student population qualify as adults. “It is not unusual for adults in particular to [leave school and] not return,” said Bob Stein, USM’s executive director of the office of public affairs.
He listed examples such as needing to work more hours at a job, care for family, or even experiencing sudden car troubles as some of the reasons why people leave without returning; simply put, “Life gets in the way.”
The reasons that students transfer into USM are just as diverse. “I was going to SMCC for a couple years, and ended up transferring to USM in spring last year,” Jack J., a junior-standing student, explained about how he wound up arrival at the university mid-year. “I didn’t have enough credits to start in fall.”
The number of students transferring in for the spring semester has has remained stable recently, according to USM’s director of technology for enrollment management, Jonathan Barker. “For Spring 2016, the number of incoming undergraduate transfer students is consistent with last year,” said Barker, citing 262 transfer students in 2015 compared to 260 in 2016. Recently, USM President Glen Cummings reported in a Monday Missive that undergraduate student enrollment for the spring semester grew by three percent.
Being a former spring transfer student to USM myself, I have personal experience in this area—I transferred because I got married and was moving back to Maine—but I don’t think that it takes first-hand experience to understand how transferring, especially mid-year, has the potential to feel overwhelming and stressful for any student, regardless of age.
Similarly, the decision to leave school and not transfer anywhere at all, whether at the end of the spring, fall, or anywhere in-between, is not always an easy choice. Students who are struggling academically may feel as though withdrawing from school is the only option . USM has many resources available to students who are looking for academic support.
Academic advising is available in Portland at 119 Payson-Smith Hall; in Gorham at 119 Bailey Hall; and at the Lewiston-Auburn campus. The Learning Commons is a collaborative effort between the USM libraries and the Division of Student Success, according to USM’s website, designed as a space for active learning with access to reference librarians and tutors, located on the second floor of the Glickman Library in Portland.
Additionally, a great service for students to take advantage of is the Disabilities Services Center, which has locations in Portland at 242 Luther Bonney Hall, in Gorham at 119 Bailey Hall, and in Lewiston-Auburn. The staff at the DSC works closely with students to “create an environment of equal access allowing students to explore and recognize their full potential,” as described on USM’s website.
Something else for students to take advantage of is USM’s deadline for priority filing of the Federal Application for Student Aid (FAFSA). The priority filing deadline is February 15 for the 2016-2017 financial aid year.
Filing your FAFSA on time makes it easier for you to receive your financial aid and it is easy to make corrections when you file your tax returns. Go to FAFSA.gov to file. Call or visit USM’s Student Financial Services Office By phone at (207) 780-5250 or on the Gorham campus at 37 College Avenue with any questions.