Jamie Guerrette was at a career crossroads. The working mother of two could see the boost a bachelor’s degree in business could give her in the job market. What she couldn’t see was how she would find the time to come back to college.

Enter University of Maine at Presque Isle’s YourPace.

A competency-based degree program offered entirely online, YourPace allows adults like Jamie to access courses when it works best in their busy lives, and advance as they master the material.

Students can receive credit for prior learning and work experience, and personal success coaches to support them as they progress toward their degree or certificate in high-demand fields including accounting, criminal justice, psychology and supply chain management. And they pay an affordable flat fee per session, regardless of how many courses they take.

The fit and flexibility of YourPace — and her hard work on nights and weekends — enabled Jamie to finish her business degree in six months. She’s since secured a great job working for an Aroostook County nonprofit, and says the skills she has now she wishes she had years ago.

In Maine, it’s estimated that 190,000 adults have some college but no door-opening degree or credential. Our public universities want to help those Mainers — and the state’s employers and economy — realize their full potential.


Doing so is not only essential to growing Maine’s workforce, but to ensuring the sustainability of our System, which is seeing far fewer students enroll directly from high school.

YourPace proves what is possible, and has helped UMPI’s enrollment increase by 67% over the last five years. It’s just one example of our System’s evolution to better engage adult learners in earning a postsecondary degree or credential, consistent with Maine’s 10-year economic strategy of growing local talent and our own new strategic plan.

Expanded broadband connectivity has been invaluable to our doing so.

The University of Maine at Augusta was a pioneer in distance education, broadcasting courses statewide using interactive television starting in the late-1980s. This fall, distance education made up 37% of all credit hours delivered by UMS.

Across the System, our universities are adding responsive, high-quality online programming so adults can most easily access innovative education and opportunity in fields where Maine most needs knowledgeable workers. This shift online has led UMS to start selling now-underutilized facilities to local partners so they can be repurposed for public benefit — like affordable senior housing — and reduce our operating costs.

The University of Maine at Fort Kent (UMFK) now has a fully online master’s in nursing, as well as RN to BSN programs so nurses here can improve their economic mobility and patient outcomes. And this fall, the University of Southern Maine launched an online bachelor’s degree in special education to up-skill those already working in the state’s schools including educational technicians. Even the University of Maine School of Law now has entirely online offerings, like its Compliance Program.


Of course, distance education isn’t for everyone. That’s why our System is improving in-person access in creative, cost-efficient ways.

For example, the University of Maine at Farmington delivers its bachelor’s in early childhood education at Southern Maine Community College, with evening and weekend classes preparing working adults in the state’s most populated region to build strong foundations for our youngest Mainers.

Beyond access and affordability, like traditional-aged learners, the 40% of UMS students who are 25 and older also need wrap-around support. The University of Maine, the University of Maine at Machias and UMFK are collaborating to help Mainers Finish Strong — an adult degree completion program that provides scholarships including a free course, personalized advising and even intensive English language training for New Americans.

Higher education doesn’t have a reputation for flexibility. Here in Maine, our public universities are changing that and the lives of Maine people.

Dannel Malloy has been Chancellor of the University of Maine System since 2019. Prior to his tenure in Maine, Malloy was a public servant for more than two decades, serving as a prosecutor, mayor and two-term Governor of Connecticut.

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