PARIS – After years of planning and preparation, the Western Maine University and Community College Center will be a reality within a few months.

Renovations have begun on the historic fairgrounds building on Route 26 next to Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School. It will house offices and classrooms for Central Maine Community College and the University of Maine System, the Career Center and other education and training providers.

Fund raising continues to complete the facility, which will have two computer classrooms, four Interactive Television classrooms, a video conference room, a multi-function meeting/study space and several classrooms. A celebration of the progress on the center is planned for July 3.

“Actually, the center has been operating since August; we just haven’t had a physical place that people can identify,” said Joanna Backman, the Community College’s Western Maine director. Both the Central Maine Technical College and the University of Maine System have been offering courses at the Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School and will continue to do so until the facility is ready.

The center is a result of the action of the Maine Legislature, which approved a $1.8 million bond issue for renovation and construction of a college center in South Paris, as well as some funding to staff the operation. The goal of the center is to substantially increase the number of individuals and businesses participating in post-secondary education in the previously underserved Oxford Hills area, thereby preparing the local workforce to compete in the new economy. The Norway division of the Maine Career Center will relocate into the center as well. Construction is projected to be completed in early 2004.

The next courses will begin right after Labor Day and, tentatively, include College Writing, Introduction to Psychology, U.S. History, Sexual Abuse and Trauma, Understanding Business, Interpersonal Communication, Infant & Toddler Curriculum and Infant & Toddler Practicum. Backman is at the high school full-time, and will assist potential students in selecting courses to take and planning their academic careers. Courses are available to high school graduates and qualified high school students. A reduced tuition rate is available to qualified high school or General Education Development students who apply to the Oxford Hills Guidance Office or the Adult Education Office.

While several people who already have a college degree are taking courses, most students are just beginning their college career. “People will eventually be able to earn degrees from the University or the Community College. Many courses offered at Oxford Hills are accepted at both Central Maine Technical College and the University of Maine Systems.

For more information on courses and programs available at the center, phone Joanna Backman at 743-8914, extension 1143 or the University Teleservice Center at 1-800-868-7000.


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