Maine is at once the northern and easternmost state in the U.S. Originally an untamed wilderness contained within the state of Massachusetts, it would secede to independence in 1820. It was thus that the untamed wilderness became a state within itself. The 23rd state is sparsely populated and ensconced in natural beauty. These are two features which also happen to describe its postsecondary education sector.
The history of Maine’s higher education begins during its time as a section of Massachusetts. In 1794, Bowdoin College was founded in the small coastal town of Brunswick. From the outset, Bowdoin would be distinguished by its academic rigor and its appeal to an elite set of enrollees. Indeed, this private liberal arts college would serve as the proving ground for many a future luminary. Amazingly, eventual President of the United States Franklin Pierce and genre-defining Romantic novelist Nathaniel Hawthorne graduated Bowdoin within a year of one another and were pretty close friends.
Today, Bowdoin is routinely ranked among the Top Five best liberal arts colleges in America by U.S. News & World Report. The school is also noted for providing generous financial aid to the vast majority of its more than 1800 students. Bowdoin is one of 14 non-profit private universities in the state, many of them tracing their roots to the colonial era.
By contrast, Maine would actually be a state for 45 years before establishing a public school. It was in 1865 that the Maine State College of Agriculture and Mechanical Arts was established.
Renamed the University of Maine just before the turn of the next century, the flagship university in Maine’s public system is today the largest of the state’s 15 public institutions. With roughly 11,000 students enrolled, the University is fairly well-populated by Maine’s standards. Located in picturesque Orono, the University of Maine is the state’s only recognized research university and is also home to the single largest library in all of Maine. Presumably, said library has no shortage of texts by its most famous alumnus, horror novelist Stephen King.
Maine also has a particularly strong track record for serving U.S. military veterans. For instance, the Southern Maine Community College was actually originally established in 1946 to serve veterans returning from service in World War II. Today, the school is the educational home base for more than 7,000 students of varying military and non-military backgrounds.