On Friday, Aug. 26, 2016, the University of Maine welcomed its largest incoming class to date, with 2,300 first-year students.
Throughout the weekend, hundreds of Maine Hello volunteers greeted new students by answering questions, helping move belongings into their residence hall rooms and running community service projects through UMaine’s Bodwell Center for Service and Volunteerism. The Maine Hello is a university tradition that is part of the first-year experience on campus.
According to a university press release, 56 percent of the freshman class is from Maine and 44 percent are from out of state, a number that has steadily increased over the years.
The Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students, Robert Dana, reported “We have been much more intentional in terms of recruiting students here in Maine and in states across the nation. With careful use of financial aid, increasing standards, and sharing the remarkable stories of UMaine we have engaged more student interest and more students are finding that UMaine is their preferred academic, cultural and social home.”
Third-year economics student Marsha Pominova has not experienced much of an impact from the incoming freshman class. “The School of Economics is small, and my classes do not have many freshmen in them. I can imagine that the impact on freshman classes such as Biology 100 have been a lot more severe.” She also explained that the possible overcrowding could be unpleasant for the campus.
Commuter students are experiencing parking issues, as well as general chaos, while coming into and leaving campus each day. Not only are the roads far busier, so are general university facilities such as the library, the recreational center and the Memorial Union.
Dana explains that there is a certain “energy that comes with more people being in a community.” The freshman class of more than 2,000 students has brought the total enrollment to over 11,000, with its highest ever number of out-of-state students — 30 percent.
Sage Riendeau, a first-year engineering student, instantly felt at home when he moved into Knox Hall on Aug. 26. “I feel like I’ve been here for two years already — it’s such a family atmosphere. The size of my class doesn’t really affect me… we’re not spending time with all 2,300 kids all the time.” A native of Salem, Maine, he chose UMaine because it’s the “best school for its price”— and because of how comfortable he feels in the community and his classes after the first week. “The professors here care — we’re not just numbers to them.”
One professor discussed the impact on his lower level courses, explaining his thrill that accompanies growing classes of incoming students — “it’s more people to impact.” He explained that the size of the freshman class has certainly made the campus busier, but it will also make it increasingly pristine. With the number of applications increasing each year to the University of Maine system, it will give the university a chance to be more selective with the types of students it allows in the community.
The university has identified increasing enrollment as a key priority. With the enrollment of over 2,000 students this year, Dana explained that the Orono campus is “vibrant and exciting with students from Maine, all across the nation, and all across the world.” He believes the community is filled with students looking to learn and increase their diverse thinking through the endless opportunities available.