UMaine makes enticing offer to potential UConn freshmen
Corporations aren’t the only thing that other states are intent on wooing to leave Connecticut.
The University of Maine wants our high school graduates as well. For the past several years, the university’s flagship Orono campus has taken out billboard space along a number of hightraffic areas, including along interstates 95 and 91 in the New Haven area and near the University of Connecticut campus on I-84 north.
“Go to UMaine,” the billboard says in big, bold letters.
Then in smaller letters, it continues: “For the in-state cost of UConn.”
University of Maine Provost Jeffrey Hecker said the recruitment effort, which the school calls The Flagship Match, is now in its third year.
The program doesn’t lower the tuition for out-of-state students, Hecker said. Instead, it offers merit awards for out-of-state students in amounts that are tied to rates at other states’ flagships schools.
“Financially, we feel it is a good investment,” he said.
UMaine officials came up with the idea of the program
after the school’s Board of Trustees refused to allow university officials to raise tuition for in-state students for a six-year-period between 2011 and 2016, Hecker said.
UMaine officials are also faced with forecasts that the number of students graduating from Maine high schools is scheduled to decline for at least the next decade, he said.
Even with the tuition discounts, Hecker said the students from Connecticut are still paying $5,000 more to go to UMaine than in-state students pay to go to the Orono campus. UMaine takes advantage of the fact that “UConn is turning away some very bright students,” Hecker said.
“They have become very selective,” he said of UConn’s undergraduate admissions department.
To qualify for Maine’s Flagship Match program in the 2019-20 admission cycle, students must have a 3.0 grade point average and SAT scores of at least 1120. The SAT score represents an increase of the previous standard, which was 1050 during the last admissions cycle.
Between 2016 and 2017, the number of Connecticut students enrolled at UMaine’s Orono campus increased by 41 percent. In 2018, though, the number of Connecticut students enrolled at the school was up 24 percent compared to 2016, officials said.
But the increase between 2016 and 2017 only amounted to 45 additional Connecticut residents attending UMaine. And the 151 undergraduate students from Connecticut at the school represented just 1.6 percent of the UMaine total undergraduate enrollment of 9,279, school officials said.
The admissions class of 2018 added 131 first-year Connecticut students, which is just 1.3 percent of the school’s total undergraduate enrollment this year.
The admission cycle completed in the spring of 2018 had 1,148 applicants from Connecticut, and 983 students were accepted and 131 enrolled, according to Margaret Nagle, a university spokeswoman. Of the total number of Connecticut residents enrolled at UMaine, 54 are Flagship program members, down from 68 the year before.
Connecticut students aren’t UMaine’s only targets. The school includes collegebound students from Massachusetts, New Jersey, Illinois and California in the Flagship Match program.
If you think officials at the University of Connecticut are worried about the University of Maine trying to attract high school graduates from the Nutmeg State to Orono, you would be wrong.
Stephanie Reitz, a UConn spokeswoman, said the University of Maine isn’t among its primary competitors for applicants. Reitz provided the New Haven Register with a list of 20 schools that UConn considers is primary competitors for applicants and it includes such prestigious schools as Yale, Cornell and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.
“UConn continues to receive record numbers of applications from in-state high school students, who make up 80 percent of our undergraduate student body,” Reitz said. “UConn and UMaine are very different in their scope, curriculum and other ways.”
Interestingly enough, though, the list of schools UConn considers as rivals for applicants includes the flagship public universities of Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Rhode Island.
Furthermore, Reitz said, UConn hasn’t seen a decline in in-state applications.
“In fact, they’ve been increasing,” she said. “And our surveys continue to show that Maine isn’t a competitor for cross-applicants (those who apply to more than one school).”
Janet Rosier is a certified education planner with offices in Woodbridge and Westport, who helps Connecticut students with college searches and admissions services. Rosier said whether or not what UMaine is offering with its Flagship program is worthwhile for a collegebound Connecticut student to consider depends on an person’s circumstances.
“This may be a good deal, but it will really come down to each individual and they would have to carefully compare the offers in totality: The Maine Scholarship Match and if they also are awarded need based financial aid to see which is the best financial offer overall,” Rosier said. “A high-achieving Connecticut student may very well pay less at UConn if they are offered merit money, and again counting any needbased financial aid. The good news is that none of these are binding admissions policies, so students can apply and then compare all of the offers and see which one makes the most financial and academic sense for them.”
Rosier said the Flagship program is smart move for UMaine, but is not something UConn needs to do.
“They don’t attract as many out-of-state students as UConn,” she said. “UConn has been getting a little more competitive to be admitted to every year. They are also a larger university, offer more majors and have a national reputation for academics and athletics.”
If nothing else, UMaine’s Flagship Match program gives the school exposure to students who might not otherwise consider it. That’s what happened with Rachel Hyatt of Darien, who is a sophomore at Maine studying math.
“I hadn’t heard about the school until my mom found out about the Flagship program,” Hyatt said. “My parents are happy that I’m able to go a little further away from home, but still have an affordable price. And I’ve really fallen in love with the school; the people here are so nice.”
Billboard advertising purchased by the University of Maine looks to recruit Connecticut students to apply to the Orono-based school’s Flagship Match Program. The program allows Connecticut students to attend the University of Maine at the same price they would pay to go to the University of Connecticut as an in-state student. The billboard shown here was along Interstate 84 in West Hartford during the fall of 2017.