A central Maine college that recently announced plans to permanently transition to hybrid learning is now expanding into southern Maine with the launch of an environmental education program on the campus of Pineland Farms in New Gloucester.

Unity College announced plans Tuesday for the Technical Institute for Environmental Professions, which will incorporate a mix of in-person and online learning to offer associates degrees, certificates and continuing professional education.

“The educational landscape is changing,” said Unity College President Melik Khoury. “Many students no longer want to spend the time and money it takes to complete a baccalaureate program. We are creating a school and partnerships that will provide a linear path to an environmental-based career. This program will not replace our current bachelor’s and master’s programs. It is simply offering more options to increasingly differentiated audiences as our college continues to grow.”

The announcement comes about eight months after Unity said it would permanently transition to a hybrid learning model and embrace a nonstandard calendar, shorter terms, differentiated tuition and a multi-modality curriculum that does not rely on maintaining a physical campus.

At the time the college said it would consider selling its main campus in the town of Unity – though that has yet to happen – and focus on providing education to students in the physical environments most relevant to individual courses, including Unity College Sky Lodge in rural Jackman, the rocky coast of Acadia National Park and individual cities like Portland, to provide hands-on learning opportunities in a real-world environment. The college enrolls about 2,200 students, up from 1,345 in the 2019-2020 school year.

Pineland Farms is a 5,000 acre working farm, business center and recreational hub and is already home to Unity’s distance education program. “Over the last few years we’ve built a relationship with them and as we were looking to augment our offerings we were looking for a location that really embodied our mission,” Khoury said.

Libra Foundation, which owns Pineland Farms, is also providing startup support and working with the college on the launch. Courses will be offered in fields such as environmental engineering, veterinary technology, the solar industry, and other growth sectors and are expected to start this fall.

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