FARMINGTON — Beginning this fall, high school students in Maine will be able to pursue six new precollege tracks at the University of Maine at Farmington.

Offered through Maine’s Early College Pathways program, the tracks are intended to help students focus on classes related to specific topics or career paths, according to Kirsten Petroska, director of the UMF Early College Partnerships program.

“The pathways are intended to mimic (a college major) on a much smaller scale,” Petroska said, “while also still offering students an opportunity to take courses that will be applicable, even if they don’t end up going into that major.”

Students can study community health, early childhood education, education and teaching, rehabilitation services, introduction to college and the liberal arts. Community health is further broken into three separate tracks: public health and nutrition; foundational health; and health, sexuality and gender.

Introduction to college and the liberal arts pathways are designed to encourage students to take a variety of introductory college classes, while still providing them with the benefits pathways participants receive.

Each pathway program consists of four or five courses offered at the university. Tuition is free for Maine’s public school and home-schooled students, although there could be course-specific fees.


Petroska said high school students at all levels are eligible to apply for the program, but juniors and seniors are typically better prepared to take on the additional academic load.

Many of the courses are available online, according to Petroska. As online offerings expand at UMF, she said the program is likely one day to allow distance students to complete each of the pathways fully online.

“The importance really lies in students sort of being able to start envisioning themselves in certain spaces,” Petroska said, “whether it’s in a college classroom, when they might not have envisioned that otherwise, or in a particular career field that they they think they’re interested in, but they’re not sure of.”

Online classes make the program more accessible for students who are unable to get to campus or require more-flexible academic scheduling due to other obligations.

Previously, students were able to apply to take individual introductory courses at UMF or earn college credit through dual enrollment programs at local high schools. Such programs are expected to continue, according to Petroska, but the Early College Pathways program has certain advantages.

Students who complete a pathway while earning a B or better in all classes would qualify for guaranteed admission to UMF; a fee wavier for a summer program aimed at incoming first-year students; and a university hat, T-shirt or sweatshirt of their choice, among other perks.


Other schools in Maine’s public university system, including the University of Maine and the University of Maine at Augusta, also have Early College Pathways programs.

Last year, 231 high school students were enrolled in the UMF Early College program.

Students earn a semester’s worth of college credits when they complete a pathway, enabling them to graduate from college early, study abroad, pursue a minor or have more flexibility in their course load, according to Petroska.

“It it’s a gift that you give yourself,” Petroska said, “when you’re able to free up some of that time that you’re dedicating to your studies.”

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