This audio is auto-generated. Please let us know if you have feedback.

Dive Brief: 

  • Unity Environmental University, a private nonprofit in Maine, is exploring selling or leasing its 225-acre campus as it pivots to focusing on low-residency and online programs. 
  • The college said it is also considering other “alternative uses” of the space, which it described as underutilized. The campus, located in Unity, Maine, has been a key part of the college since it opened in 1965, according to the Bangor Daily News
  • The decision comes after the university announced in 2020 that it would focus more on hybrid and online learning. At the time, leaders said the college was facing a $14 million revenue shortfall, but its new direction has since been credited with driving explosive enrollment growth. 

Dive Insight: 

Unity Environmental stands apart from many other Northeast nonprofit colleges in enrollment trends. While others have struggled to attract students, enrollment at Unity has grown from just 573 students in fall 2011 to more than 2,400 students a decade later. 

Much of that growth came at the height of the pandemic, when Unity announced its newfound focus on online education. In 2020, officials said they were anticipating revenue shortfalls and made steep cuts to the college’s workforce. They also said they would explore selling the college’s main campus. 

But those revenue shortfalls never materialized. Instead, Unity Environmental saw record enrollment that term and clocked a revenue surplus of around $3.9 million for the 2021 fiscal year. In 2021, university leaders said they didn’t have plans to list the property for sale, the Morning Sentinel reported.

The positive enrollment trend has only continued. According to its latest announcement, Unity Environmental now has more than 7,500 full-time students, more than 10 times above its historical average of 600 students. The university also said it is welcoming 1,000 new full-time students this summer, its largest ever incoming class. 

“This impressive growth is a testament to the University’s dedication to providing accessible, flexible, and affordable education opportunities, which align with the preferences of today’s students,” the college said in the release. 

Unity Environmental lists its estimated costs for distance undergraduate programs at $15,000 per year. Costs for online graduate degrees and certificates run $10,850 annually. 

However, the college is also putting a potential sale of the campus back on the table — in line with those preferences. Only about 50 students reside on the campus at any one time, though the property is designed for about 600, a college spokesperson said via email Monday.

In its announcement, Unity Environmental said it is expanding low-residency programming throughout the state. That includes opportunities for students to study environmental science at two locations, Pineland Farms in New Gloucester, which has a 5,000-acre working farm, and Sky Lodge, a 150-acre property with cabins and other accommodations.