That classic image of the New England college town – students walking across a tree-lined campus toward ivy-covered buildings, fall foliage bathing the quad in hues of red, gold and orange – comes to life at the many baccalaureate, graduate and associate’s colleges across Maine. The state is home to private and public universities, with student bodies that range from just a few hundred to well over 11,000 students.
Several Maine colleges have been recognized as being among the best institutions of higher learning in the New England region, such as Bates College – ranked among the country’s top private liberal arts universities – and the University of Maine – ranked among the top 100 public schools in the U.S. As an added benefit, most of Maine’s colleges have stunning physical locations, near the ocean, lakes or mountains, making them desirable for both their academic qualifications and their proximity to outdoor recreation.
Bates College’s long history stretches back to 1855. This private, liberal arts institution – the first co-educational college in New England — was founded by abolitionists who wished to promote civil rights, freedom and access to higher education for all. Today, Bates College has an enrollment of about 1,700 undergraduate students and is known for its low student-to-faculty ratio, its commitment to diversity and its highly selective admissions process.
Bates College is located in Lewiston in the scenic Maine Lakes & Mountains region. Set on the Androscoggin River, Lewiston’s parks, trails and nature sanctuaries offer recreational activities for outdoor enthusiasts, while its cultural attractions include the Bates College Museum of Art, the annual Bates Dance Festival and the historic Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul.
Founded by a French Huguenot family in 1794, Bowdoin College offers a private, liberal arts education. The college enrolls about 1,700 undergraduate students in 33 academic departments, from Africana Studies to Physics, Neuroscience to Classical Studies. Bowdoin is known for its selective admissions, small class sizes and gender parity amongst faculty.
Bowdoin College is located in Brunswick, a city of 21,000 residents nestled between the Maine coast and the mountains. Students enjoy close proximity to the beach, skiing at resorts like Sugarloaf and the city of Portland. Other local attractions include the annual Bowdoin International Music Festival and the Maine State Music Theatre.
Colby College offers an undergraduate, liberal arts education with more than 50 majors to choose from, from Geology to Global Studies. This private college emphasizes world-wide connections — it’s one of the first colleges in the U.S. to receive the prestigious Senator Paul Simon Award for Campus Internationalization – and attracts students and faculty from around the world. Colby is also known for its extensive study-abroad program, project-based learning and Integrated Studies program.
Colby’s 714-acre campus overlooks the city of Waterville. With a population of about 15,000, Waterville sits on the west bank of the Kennebec River. It’s home to the acclaimed Colby College Museum of Art and the Waterville Opera House, as well as the extensive Kennebec Messalonskee recreational trail system, perfect for walking, biking and cross-country skiing.
University of Maine
The state’s largest public college, the University of Maine offers 88 undergraduate degrees and 100 master’s and doctoral programs. This top-ranking university — the flagship of the University of Maine system — is known for its research emphasis, as well as its historic Honors program and its Division I hockey team, the Black Bears. The University of Maine was established in 1868 with only 12 students and two faculty; today, it has an enrollment of more than 11,000 students and confers 2,300 degrees each year.
The University of Maine is located in Orono, just west of the bustling city of Bangor. Set on the banks of the Stillwater River, Orono is home to a number of parks and recreational spaces, including the Orono Bog Boardwalk and a network of walking, biking and ski trails. Other local attractions include the Collins Center for the Arts and the Hudson Museum.
University of Maine at Presque Isle
Set in northern Maine, the University of Maine at Presque Isle has an enrollment of about 1,500 students. Founded in 1903 as the Aroostook State Normal School, the college offers both liberal arts and professional programs at its 150-acre campus. Set in the town of Presque Isle, students can experience life in rural Maine – from miles of mountain biking trails to world-class snowboarding and skiing at nearby resorts – as well as take day trips across the border to Quebec City and New Brunswick.
University of Maine at Machias
The University of Maine at Machias offers an education grounded in a unique blend of environmentally focused liberal arts. This undergraduate school, which has about 1,000 students, offers majors in subjects from Fisheries Biology to Women’s Studies, all with an emphasis on environmental awareness and community-centered inquiry. The tiny Downeast town of Machias sits on the ruggedly beautiful Bold Coast, surrounded by forests, rivers and the rocky Atlantic coastline.
University of Maine at Fort Kent
Founded in 1878 as the Madawaska Training School, the University of Maine at Fort Kent offers undergraduate degrees with an emphasis on the challenges facing rural American communities as well as an appreciation of the Franco-American and Acadian heritage of the area. It has a student enrollment of about 1,100 and classes incorporate environmental stewardship through experiential learning. The town of Fort Kent sits on the Canadian border, where it’s been host to a range of world-class events, from the annual CanAm Crown Sled Dog race to the Biatholon World Cup.
University of Maine at Farmington
The University of Maine at Farmington, established in 1864, is Maine’s first public institution of higher learning. The school limits its undergraduate enrollment to 2,000 full-time students and offers pre-professional courses of study, as well as a traditional liberal arts education. The town of Farmington may be most famous as the birthplace of Chester Greenwood, inventor of the earmuff, but it also offers proximity to skiing at Titcomb Mountainand Sugarloaf, hiking on Bigelow Mountain and some of the best fly fishing in Maine.
University of Maine at Augusta
The University of Maine at Augusta has campuses in Augusta and Bangor as well as nine satellite campuses and more than 50 learning centers across the state. Established in 1965, today the University of Maine Augusta has an enrollment of 6,000 students. It offers a range of baccalaureate and associates degrees, as well as several certification programs. The school’s main campus is located in the state capitol, Augusta, which offers a blend of Maine’s famous outdoor recreation as well as historical sites – such as the Old Fort Western — and cultural attractions, such as the Maine State Museum.
University of Southern Maine
The University of Southern Maine operates three campuses — located in Lewiston, Gorham and Portland — including the University of Maine School of Law and the Edmund Muskie School of Public Service. The university offers baccalaureate, master’s and doctoral degrees in fields ranging from engineering to health sciences, art to business. USM was created in 1970 when the Gorham Normal School and the University of Maine at Portland merged. Today, the school has almost 10,000 students that hail from 40 states and 18 countries.
Other public and private baccalaureate and/or graduate colleges in Maine include:
- Bangor Theological Seminary in Bangor
- College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor
- Husson University in Bangor
- Maine College of Art in Portland
- Maine Maritime University in Castine
- New England School of Communications in Bangor
- Saint Joseph’s College of Maine in Standish
- Thomas College in Waterville
- Unity College in Unity
- University of New England in Biddeford and Portland
Maine is also home to several community and vocational colleges. These institutions generally offer associate’s degrees or certificates in technical or vocational fields, as well as programs that prepare students to enter four-year colleges. Maine community colleges and technical schools include:
- Andover College in Lewiston and Portland
- Beal College in Bangor
- Central Maine Community College in Auburn
- Eastern Maine Community College in Bangor
- Kennebec Valley Community College in Fairfield
- Northern Maine Community College in Presque Isle
- Southern Maine Community College in Portland and Brunswick
- Washington County Community College in Calais
- York County Community College in Wells
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