The University of Southern Maine and Gorham High School have announced a new partnership to give high school students an unprecedented opportunity to earn free college credit.
In three pathways of study — nursing and health sciences, law and liberal arts, and engineering — Gorham High juniors and seniors will have the chance to attain college credit in courses coordinated by their teachers and USM professors.
These new classes combined with already existing concurrent enrollment courses, advanced placement and prior learning credits, and the College-Level Examination Program (CLEP) allow Gorham juniors and seniors to complete as much as a year of their college education before entering USM.
“The USM-Gorham High School early college pathways agreement delivers on exactly what students and families tell us they are seeking: high quality programs that lead to promising career pathways, and that are an affordable alternative to the soaring cost of the larger higher education landscape,” said Jared Cash, USM’s vice president for Enrollment Management and Marketing. “This program delivers on all three of those factors in a big way.”
Getting a chance to do college-level work and succeed is already drawing Gorham students to existing programs.
Senior Abby O’Brien signed up for a Gorham High statistics class, knowing that she would earn credit for the concurrent enrollment class throughout the University of Maine System.
“It definitely makes me feel more prepared for college,” said O’Brien, who may attend USM in the fall. “I am earning real credits.” And though the class is rigorous and demanding, it has given her confidence that she can accomplish the work of an undergraduate, she said.
Her statistics classmate, Brittney Landry, agreed.
“The speed we’re going at is much faster than a regular class,” Landry said. “But I know I can do it.”
Developing that confidence is an intangible benefit that comes with early college work, Principal Brian Jandreau said. Other benefits, such as the free cost, can be a huge enticement to students fearing debt.
“You can save 25 percent of the cost of college tuition right off the bat,” Jandreau said. “It may keep kids in Maine.”
The partnership was announced at a March 3rd event for Gorham High’s incoming ninth graders and their parents.
“USM and the Gorham Schools have always been strong partners, but this new agreement brings a whole new level of cooperation between USM and the Gorham School Department,” Superintendent Heather Perry said. “This agreement means we can show our students early on in their educational careers that they can succeed in college. It also saves money for families and may even possibly help to reduce debt incurred by our families as their children pursue higher education.
The new pathways also serve to help develop Maine’s workforce in particularly needed areas, said USM’s Cash.
"Gorham High School students who complete one of the three pathways are saving over $10,000 in tuition and fees and a full year of college, allowing them to enter a workforce that needs their talent even sooner and with less debt," Cash said.