The University of Maine at Augusta began classes this week with about the same number of students it had last September, and officials expect the total number of credit hours for the fall semester to be close to the university’s projections.

The university will celebrate the start of the school year with its annual convocation Sept. 18, launching the year’s academic theme of “Interdisciplinarity.” The convocation, scheduled for 3:30 to 5 p.m. on the Augusta campus green, also will serve as a celebration of the university’s 50th anniversary, according to a news release from UMA.

The university started the fall semester with 4,716 students, down 25 students from the same time last year, according to enrollment figures provided by UMA. The total credit hours, 40,305, are down 2.4 percent from the same time last year, but the university had projected to have 38,375 credit hours this semester.

Typically, the credit hours fluctuate between the start of classes and Oct. 15, when the university records enrollment figures for the semester, said Sheri Fraser, UMA’s dean of enrollment services. By Oct. 15, the credit hours for the semester probably will be close to the projection, Fraser said.

University officials projected credit hours to decline by 2.5 percent from 39,215 last fall semester, because UMA is converting a couple of programs that previously led to associate degrees to bachelor’s degree programs, Fraser said.

UMA is phasing out its associate degree in nursing program and replacing it with a bachelor’s degree in nursing, which began accepting students last year, she said. This is the first year UMA hasn’t accepted new students to the associate program.

The bachelor’s program, implemented because of an increasing desire from employers for bachelor’s degrees in nursing, is a collaboration between UMA and the University of Maine at Fort Kent.

After the students’ first year in the bachelor’s program, students matriculate to UMFK while still taking the classes on the Augusta campus, Fraser said.

UMA also has phased out its associate degree in veterinary technology program in Bangor for a new bachelor’s degree program available this fall.

Fraser said a focus this year is improving services for student success, particularly for UMA’s many nontraditional students who didn’t enroll directly from high school. One aspect of the focus is bringing student support staff such as tutors to the students in their classrooms or in virtual classrooms online.

“The support people become a known quantity to the students in class, and it’s much more comfortable and easier for the students to make the connection to the services they need,” Fraser said.

This year’s convocation on Sept. 18 will feature keynote speaker Elizabeth Duclos-Orsello, an associate professor of interdisciplinary studies at Salem State University in Salem, Massachusetts. Several student and faculty speakers also will provide their perspectives on the academic year’s theme of interdisciplinarity, which will be the focus of several events this year and be included in course curricula in many academic disciplines, according to the release.

Thomas Giordano, associate professor of accounting, will receive UMA’s Distinguished Educator Award. Richard Nelson, professor of music, will receive UMA’s Distinguished Scholar Award at the convocation

As part of the university’s 50th anniversary, it launched a capital campaign in May 2014 to raise $5 million in private money for student scholarships, to support veterans enrolled at UMA, to strengthen the school’s online and distance education offerings and to renovate Jewett Hall Auditorium. So far, the campaign has raised more than $3.1 million, according to UMA spokeswoman Rachel Paling.

Paul Koenig — 621-5663

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Twitter: @pdkoenig