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More in Community
Western Maine College Center is growing, thriving
PARIS — Serving the greater Oxford Hills region, the Western Maine University and Community College Center (WMUCC) houses both Central Maine Community College’s off-campus site, as well as the University College Center, an off-campus location serving students from all of the University of Maine campuses.
Since its inception in 2004, the number of registered students at WMUCC has more than doubled. Today they boast an enrollment of 250-300 students per semester, with over 200 courses offered each semester through face-to-face instruction, video conferencing, interactive television and on-line.
The unique partnership came into being eight years ago under the leadership of several area people who had the foresight to dream of a collaboration among the Community College System, the University of Maine System, along with the Western Maine Community Action’s Career Center.
The vision was to rehabilitate the former Oxford County Fair Exhibition building into a facility that would keep its original footprint and house the three organizations.
Until recently, all three entities have shared in the cost of running the facility which has become a statewide model of how organizations can cut costs by joining forces.
Due to state cutbacks, however, the Career Center (CC) has had to downsize its staff to the point that only one staff counselor remained as of August. At the end of that month, the CC moved to more modest quarters in the South Paris Chamber of Commerce’s office building. Job search and resume writing lab hours are still conducted in the computer room at the college center.
In addition to the two remaining institutions, the State of Maine’s Department of Labor’s Vocational Rehabilitation program has a part-time satellite office for one counselor and three field agents.
Women, Work and Community is also housed in the facility - it supports displaced homemakers, single parents and disadvantaged workers by providing workforce preparation, self-employment and financial self-sufficiency workshops.
The WMUCC facility also serves as a meeting hub for many area businesses and nonprofit organizations and has always been committed to meeting their assembly needs. Among those who use the facility on a regular basis are: Community Concepts, Oxford Hills/Buckfield Adult Education with its college readiness classes, Impaired Drivers Awareness Group, Maine Educational Opportunities Center’s financial aid workshops and two major employers - all who use the classrooms and/or the office space.
Additionally, the Chamber of Commerce, SCORE, Community Concept’s Economic Development Office, the Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School’s Advanced Placement testing, a U.S. Senate Forum, CMCC’s Corporate Community Services Office, University of Maine’s Extension Office, DOL’s Rapid Response Team, the Town of Paris, along with other organizations and businesses have used the building on an as needed basis.
Some of the organizations have held quarterly meetings in the building or conducted professional development workshops and seminars.
As stewards of a publically funded enterprise and to wisely use taxpayer dollars, a nominal room-use fee is charged by WMUCC to help defray the cost of running the building, based on whether an organization/business holds for-profit or non-profit status. The fees are some of the lowest room rentals in this area.
Now that the Career Center has had to downsize and move from the building, the remaining two partners will see a dramatic decrease in the needed revenue to help with the operational costs of the building. However, WMUCC will remain a resource within the community for post-secondary education and as a meeting space for community businesses and organizations.
It will move forward as a strong partnership with support from the public, the legislature and each system’s leadership.
For more information on registering for classes or to book a meeting room, call 743-9322.