The University of Maine at Augusta has announced a partnership with the University of Maine at Farmington to offer a bachelor’s degree in nursing, beginning in the fall of 2021. Contributed photo

AUGUSTA — The University of Maine at Augusta has announced a partnership with the University of Maine at Farmington to offer a bachelor’s degree in nursing, beginning in the fall of 2021.

The collaborative program was established two years ago after research by the universities showed an expected increase in the need for nurses over the next five years in central Maine.

Sixteen to 19 students will be selected for the entering class of 2021, with applications due Jan. 31.

“The notion of having more nurses come into the pipeline started a couple years ago,” said Johnathan Henry, vice president of marketing and enrollment at UMA. “Nursing is expected to be needed statewide, with a huge retirement of nurses coming in a couple years.”

Henry said many nurses in central Maine are older and likely to look at retirement in the not-too-distant future, so UMA has has increased its nursing clinical capabilities in Brunswick, Ellsworth, Rockland and Rumford.

“Two years ago, we did research on the state board of nursing, and there will be 3,000 openings in five years,” Henry said. “There is a huge number because of retirement, and half the amount of nurses in central Maine would be reaching retirement age.”

He said it made sense for UMA to expand its nursing program and partner with UMF.

“It allowed the same thing that we were offering in central Maine,” Henry said, “but now they can live on campus and be a part of the campus.”

Those who enroll in the nursing program would live at UMF for all four years, but the classes offered would be through UMA on the Farmington campus, bringing the curriculum to them.

Students would not have to travel, except for lab clinicals, which typically begin junior year, he said.

The University of Maine at Augusta houses more nontraditional students, Henry said, adding the students who attend UMA may be older or not looking for a campus experience.

UMA has 5,811 students and two residential halls, with one having opened this year.

UMF is considerably smaller: 1,505 students, with 95% of them living on campus their first year.

The nursing program’s acceptance rate is unknown thus far because of the coronavirus. This year, university officials are looking at applicants’ high school grades in mathematics and the sciences, but not at SAT scores, according to Henry.

“I think we will get people from out of state,” Henry said. “I think it’s going to be successful. There are demands for nursing, and now there is a small, intimate campus, and we have a strong track record. We are two strong institutions partnering together to make this work.”

One of the challenges has been advertising and promoting the program during the coronavirus pandemic, including being able to attend job fairs and visit high schools.

Virtual conferences are now part of the recruiting process, and in-person tours of the school are available, if participants wear masks, according to UMF Provost Eric Brown.

“We know from previous years and from students that have said if UMF offered nursing, that they would go here,” Brown said. “We know there is a demand out there and that the market for nursing is profound. I don’t expect the interest to subside with distance subsets.”

Brown said a college campus may feel like a safe place for students during a time of uncertainty, such as the COVID-19 pandemic.

He said enrollment within the University of Maine System has been down less than 1% during the pandemic.

“Everyone is dealing with unknowns, but I think there is this counter narrative that college provides stability,” Henry said. “The University of Maine System has had low case rates (of COVID-19), and Maine is low in comparison to the nation.”

The University of Maine at Farmington also offers pre-medicine, pre-veterinary and pre-dental education tracks for students seeking to work in those professions.

UMF has had to make changes to its curriculum for the nursing program. The first two years of the nursing track will include liberal arts courses at UMF, with classes for the UMA nursing program implemented into the last two years.

“It can’t be a more important time to be developing health care workers,” Brown said.

Related Headlines


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.