Amy Cross couldn’t have done it any other way.
The University of Maine student had two children at home when she enrolled in online courses. She had left a career in commercial insurance and risk management, and wanted to return to school to earn a degree in education. Though she lives in Brewer, Maine, just a few miles south of Orono, a daily commute to campus wasn’t an option.
“If it weren’t for distance learning, I don’t think I’d be in school. Distance learning was the only way I could afford to do it without having to pay exorbitant daycare fees,” says Cross, who has been taking an average of four classes each semester since 2005. “I fell in love with it.”
Cross is far from alone. This semester, 3,255 students accounted for 4,315 separate course registrations for distance-delivered UMaine classes – up 1,000 from spring 2008.
The reasons for the increase are myriad. The slumping economy has made travel to campus cost-prohibitive for some. In a state as large and rural as Maine, distance is always an issue. For those who have a day job, a traditional course schedule may not work. And many prefer the convenience of taking a course when – and where – they want.
“As a land-grant university and the flagship campus of the state, the University of Maine’s mission is one that is statewide,” says Robert White, UMaine associate provost and dean of the Division of Lifelong Learning. “The resources of our faculty have been extended, allowing more people access to UMaine’s offerings.”