AUGUSTA — The University of Maine at Augusta has 23 new students enrolled for this fall who aren’t paying any tuition for three of their college credits.

Those 23 new students each cashed in one of the “Pay it Forward” certificates given to graduates of the UMA class of 2015 last spring. The certificates are good for three credits’ worth of tuition for new students who enroll in a degree program at the university.

Last year’s graduates could give them to friends, relatives or anyone else interested in starting an education at UMA, Rebecca Wyke, interim president, told faculty and staff members at UMA’s annual welcome-back breakfast Friday.

Sheri Fraser, dean of enrollment services, said the program’s goal is to give graduates an opportunity to “pay forward” the support they received in going to college by helping someone else start their higher education at UMA.

Fraser said while students who enroll in a degree program could have signed up for only one course using the pay-it-forward certificate and not signed up for any others, most of them registered for significantly more than the three free credits’ worth of courses.

She said the average number of credits signed up for by the 23 students was 9.6, which she said is higher than the average number of credits other UMA students take.

She said the students enrolled in a wide variety of degree programs.

“We’re pleased with the results,” Fraser said. “The idea was to get them started, to embark on a degree program. For some of them, it was just the nudge they needed.”

Fraser said one graduate gave the three-credit certificate to her mother, and another gave it to her father.

The first certificate was turned in within an hour of last May’s graduation. The most recent one came in Thursday.

The offer was limited to new students and to the first 50 eligible applicants. The three credits otherwise would cost a student $651, according to the university.

Wyke, vice chancellor of finance and administration and University of Maine System treasurer, was named interim UMA president in June. A search for a new leader for UMA continues, with finalists expected to be presented to the system trustees in November.

She welcomed new and praised existing UMA faculty and staff members at Friday’s breakfast meeting.

“In my opinion, UMA is one of the shiny jewels of the University of Maine System,” she said. “I’ve long admired the dedication and support of UMA faculty and staff. I deeply admire the UMA students themselves, who overcame adversity and met family responsibilities to make their way to graduation.”

Wyke noted UMA’s celebration of its 50th year continues.

She said a fundraising campaign associated with UMA’s 50th birthday also is ongoing. She said it has raised more than $3 million so far, and a major celebration will take place, this year, when the $5 million fundraising goal is reached.

She joked with faculty and staff members Friday that they can play a role in getting to that $5 million goal sooner rather than later.

“If two of you would stand up right now and pledge $1 million each, we’d be at $5 million,” Wyke said, drawing laughs. She noted that the faculty and the staff can help even if they don’t have $1 million to spare, such as through the First Century Society, in which faculty and staff members who participate pledge to donate $50 a year for the next five years.

Wyke encouraged the faculty to nominate students for the upcoming Rising Scholars awards and submit proposals for UMA’s Presidential Enrollment Mini-Grants.

She said $40,000 has been allocated this year to the mini-grant program, in which any faculty member, staff member or student group can submit proposals for funding of ideas meant to boost student recruitment and success.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]

Twitter: @kedwardskj

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