Our Maine Street's Aroostook Issue 18 : Fall 2013 - Page 73

College America College inin America college education at a reasonably priced school within one to two years. Why is it that the typical UMFK graduate carries the least amount of average education debt than any other public college or university in the nation? According to President Hess, the most obvious reason behind the low debt rate is because “UMFK works!” “Our students reflect the values of our communities here in the St. John Valley,” says Hess. “That includes the sons and daughters of the Valley in whom a strong work ethic has been instilled, but also in the students who come from elsewhere in the state of Maine, and beyond. Those students come to value and acquire the same strong work ethos that is customary to those who are born and raised here,” he adds. To back up his assessment, President Hess cites some interesting statistics contained in a National Survey for Student Engagement (NSSE) survey of undergraduate students from more than 600 colleges and universities from across the United States and Canada. The NSSE data from 2011 demonstrates that the average firstyear and senior-year student at UMFK works work far more than their average national counterparts. According to the NSSE survey results, three times as many first-year UMFK students work, as opposed to the national average. Working six to 10 hours a week, on-campus, is most typical, as is working 16 to 20 hours each week, “Whether in the classroom or online, UMFK offers a complete package of quality and affordability for high school graduates or adults returning to college.” off-campus. One in 10 first-year students attending UMFK work 30-plus hours each week, offcampus. The final figure ranks 83 percent above the national average. Forty percent of UMFK senior class students already work 15 hours, or more, off-campus. Twenty-seven percent work 30 hours, or more. In each case, it is approximately 60 percent above the national average, as reported by the NSSE survey. Another factor that account for the lowest national student debt load is UMFK’s low tuition rate among four-year public higher education institutions. Those low rates, coupled with a zero percent increase in tuition and fees in backto-back years of 2012 and 2013, is good financial news for undergraduates. Likewise, so was the move to a block tuition fee structure during the 2012-13 academic year. Allowing students to enroll for anywhere from 12 to 18 credits for a single tuition rate, allows a motivated student to move through their chosen academic program at a faster rate, and with less debt. The UMFK Foundation’s La Cloche de Fer Campaign has increased the University’s endowment by more than 60 percent. That historic success has led to an increase in endowed scholarship opportunities for undergraduates, thereby lightening the financial load on students and their families. Last September, UMFK once again was ranked among the top 15 public colleges in the North, according to the 2013 edition of U.S. News & World Report’s Best Regional Colleges. It marked the fourth successive year of upward movement by the University in the rankings. Says President Hess, “First came the Best Colleges ranking, and now comes the least debt ranking. Whether in the classroom or online, UMFK offers a complete package of quality and affordability for high school graduates or adults returning to college.” The Bell Tower | 7