The "Finish Strong" program aims to reach adults who started but never finished a bachelor's degree and those who have an associate's degree.
Students mill about on the University of Maine's Orono campus Nov. 3, 2022. Credit: Sawyer Loftus / BDN

Some 280,000 Mainers who started a college degree but never finished their studies will soon have new incentives to return to the classroom.

The University of Maine, along with the Machias and Fort Kent campuses, will launch the “Finish Strong” program next spring. It’s designed to reach adults who started a bachelor’s degree but never finished it and those who have an associate’s degree.

Students who sign up for online courses or in-person classes at those campuses will receive $300 to participate. After registering for their first course, the second one will be free of charge.

John Volin, provost for UMaine and UMaine at Machias, hopes the program will help close the state’s higher education gap.

“When they earn their degree and have this specialized knowledge and skills, hopefully they can get jobs that they may not otherwise be qualified for. Perhaps they can get promotions within their current employment [and] really advance their careers, and ultimately, hopefully, earn as well a higher income,” Volin said.

The University of Maine System estimates the new program could also help some 50,00 people in Maine who have been granted asylum or are seeking asylum.

“Some may actually have degrees in foreign countries that we need to help them work through,” he said. “Others may need to take additional courses to get toward a degree.”

All students will be given an adviser within the program. The university will also expand an English language learning institute currently based at the UMaine campus in Orono to Portland, Volin added.

The program is funded through a $750,000 grant and should run for two years, though Volin said he’s hopeful the university system can continue it for longer.

This article appears through a media partnership with Maine Public.