By Iris Stone
In this ranking, we examine top value universities and colleges in Maine.
With its thick forests, beautiful coastlines, and rolling mountains, Maine is a nature-lover's paradise. It's also a haven for progressive, free-spirited students who love the great outdoors – and who can handle the snow! Public and private colleges alike are influenced by Maine's unique environment, from the Maine Maritime Academy, which almost exclusively offers on marine-based majors, to the University of Maine at Fort Kent, which is heavily influenced by its Canadian neighbors and deep-rooted French culture. Going to school in Maine is a great way to fuel your passions without coughing up major funds. The following ranking includes the top 10 schools in Maine for their academic and financial value, based on a carefully crafted methodology (see below).
10. University of Southern Maine
Students who are looking for a metropolitan college in Maine will find USM to be one of their best options. Located in the state's largest city (with a population of nearly 70,000 residents) the University of Southern Maine serves as a gateway to endless entertainment venues and cultural events – not to mention a thriving job market. USM students can trek off campus to intern with a local company (potentially leading to a full-time job and a head start on earning a predicted $170k 20-year net ROI) or just a fun night out on the town. This cheap Maine college (thank you, in-state tuition) is also attractively accessible; satellite campuses in Gorham and Lewiston provide additional opportunities for less centrally-located residents.
Net Price: $16,484/yr
9. University of Maine at Farmington
The University of Maine at Farmington boasts a distinct edge over other colleges in Maine – both public and private. In a departure from what many students have come to expect out of a public education, UMF is small, selective, and liberal arts focused – despite its state funding. Its affordable net price, beautiful suburban campus, and emphasis on undergraduate education (the vast majority of students are full-time and of "traditional" age) make it hands-down one of the best universities in Maine. UMF is also a great choice for indecisive and endlessly curious learners; its supportive Liberal Arts Undecided Program and Self-Designed majors will give you the freedom to make an adventure out of your education without making a mockery out of your expected graduation date.
Net Price: $18,089/yr
8. Maine Maritime Academy
When it comes to unique colleges in Maine, few (if any) compare to the Maine Maritime Academy. A co-educational college of fewer than 1,000 students, MMA focuses almost exclusively on STEM fields that will prepare you for a career in the transportation, management, and maritime industries. Degree programs are limited to Ocean Studies, International Business and Logistics, Marine Transportation, Engineering (with subspecialties in technology and operations), and Interdisciplinary Studies (an opportunity to combine two other subjects). Because of its narrow focus, this affordable university in Maine fosters a campus of like-minded individuals who share common goals. You can participate in the Regiment of Midshipmen, join the SCUBA Club, or attend meetings of "Women on the Water" with peers who share your mania for all things marine.
Net Price: $18,089/yr
7. University of Maine
If you're one of those students who sees research as an essential part of your college experience, go ahead and put the University of Maine at the top of your list. It's not only the largest college in Maine and the flagship campus of the public system, it's also the only university in the state to officially hold Carnegie classification as a research institution. In fact, UM has an entire Center for Undergraduate Research right on campus, where you can look for upcoming opportunities to work with professors and apply for fellowships. And if research isn't your thing, consider one of the many other resources for driven students. If you're up for the challenge, you might even consider applying to the Honors College, which features an especially rigorous, interdisciplinary curriculum in the form of small, discussion-based "tutorials."
Net Price: $16,505/yr
6. University of Maine at Fort Kent
Fort Kent, ME
For an international collegiate experience that's heavy on culture, take a look at the University of Maine at Fort Kent. Its location near the Canadian border makes it a magnet for French-Americans as well as Canadians. The small town of Fort Kent is heavily influenced by Acadian culture, and a majority of the population is bilingual. As such, UMFK teaches classes in both English and French and caters their academic programs to the needs of this uniquely heterogeneous community. Baccalaureate and associate's degrees include Applied Forest Management, Conservation Law Enforcement, Wildland Firefighting, and Environmental Studies – all options that will help ensure your tuition dollars (UMFK is one of the most affordable colleges in Maine, by the way) will be a wise investment in your future.
Net Price: $12,965/yr
5. Husson University
Husson University is known as one of the top colleges in Maine for students seeking experiential learning and pre-professional training opportunities. While other colleges certainly offer some career-specific majors, Husson goes above and beyond in its mission to prepare its students for life beyond graduation. Major in Business Administration and choose from eight different concentrations; major in Communications and pick from specialties like Radio Broadcasting, Audio Engineering, and Sports Journalism; or opt for an equally practical degree in Criminal Justice, Nursing, or Computer Information Systems, to name but a few.
Net Price: $16,526/yr
4. Bates College
Although Bates College claims just three priorities in its pedagogical approach, its captures some pretty big ideas in such a short list: Purposeful Work, Engaged Liberal Arts, and Opportunity and Excellence. Students at Bates are remarkably passionate and impressively engaged; social justice causes take central stage here, from the work the "Bates Builds" group does with Habitat for Humanity to the community advocacy spearheaded by the Environmental Coalition. And Bates truly is one of the best colleges in Maine for volunteerism. Case and point? The Harward Center, a beacon of "community-engaged learning" that helps students find ways to give back, from becoming a mentor with Big Brothers Big Sisters to working as a tutor for local elementary school kids.
Net Price: $22,062/yr
3. Colby College
Colby College may be one of the oldest liberal arts schools in the country, but its approach to learning is anything but outdated. Indeed, its curriculum is notably progressive, encouraging exploration at every turn. Students hail from more than 70 nations, cultivating a campus culture that is remarkably diverse. You can explore other nations simply by talking to your classmates – although you can definitely study abroad, too! This top university in Maine also offers the "Jan Plan," a condensed semester during which students can intern, conduct research, or take a course outside their major. Far from being a waste of time, this exploratory philosophy proves to be incredibly effective: CC's graduation rate is 90%!
Net Price: $18,477/yr
2. College of the Atlantic
Bar Harbor, ME
During a time when academia has become woefully industrialized, educating students en masse on concrete campuses, the College of the Atlantic serves as a breath of fresh air – literally! The salty smell of the ocean lingers throughout the natural campus, which is constructed mostly of rustic cabins and environmentally conscious buildings. You'll truly feel like you're part of a community at this affordable Maine college, where students eat in the dining hall alongside their professors and make lifelong friends on school-sponsored camping trips. Academics at the college reflect this pervasive sense of harmony and love of the outdoors, and degrees are available in subjects like Community Planning and Ecological Policy; Mind, Meaning, and Consciousness; and Sustainable Business.
Net Price: $16,359/yr
1. Bowdoin College
In terms of this ranking, Bowdoin College has risen to the #1 spot primarily because of its extreme selectivity (only 15% of applicants are accepted) and commendable graduation rate (93% of students earn their diploma in six years or less). But there's so much more to this top college in Maine than impressive statistics. Students and faculty at Bowdoin speak of an "intellectual push" – a drive to take risks, dream big, and make the most of college. As a perfect example of Bowdoin's holistic, sincere philosophy, take a look at the McKeen Center for the Common Good. This program's entire mission is to identify students' talents, interests, and aspirations and combine them in a way that will "compound their meaningfulness" and cultivate "lifelong commitments to improving the well-being of society."
Net Price: $22,289/yr
This concludes our ranking of best value Maine colleges and universities.
About the Author:
Iris Stone began her writing career as a freelance writer and researcher. She now owns and operates a writing and editing firm that works with clients all across the country. Her work has included articles related to education policy, colleges and universities, academic programs, and careers.