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FAQ – Path Forward

Frequently Asked Questions about Unity College’s Path Forward

Updated 9/4/20 5:30 p.m.

For Hybrid Learning FAQs, click here.

  • What is the status of Unity College and it’s financial health?

    We’re proud to share that over the last 10 years Unity College has experienced unprecedented growth while increasing its assets, students, and net positive annual operating budgets allowing us to pivot and re-launch post- COVID from a position of strength. By focusing on hybrid learning and distance education modalities we hope to continue to expand and reach new audiences.


    Our adaptation of an operational structure called the Enterprise Education Model in 2017 has allowed us the ability to create a series of business units so that when one unit is not doing well, in this case the residential and hybrid program, it does not cripple the entire College, but rather allows us to pivot and adapt to the changing needs of current and future students. Our current residential/ hybrid units have taken a significant hit in enrollment resulting in a $12-$14M revenue shortfall, for the 2020-21 year.  However, our Distance Education and Sustainable Ventures units continue to project multi-year growth which keeps the College in a strong financial position.

  • How is Unity College accredited?

    Unity College continues to be fully accredited by NECHE.  In fact, recent decisions were made in light of maintaining our existing accreditation and avoiding any negative financial or other adverse events that could damage our standing with our accreditor. Further, we are  in regular communication with NECHE representatives with the purpose of updating them on our future plans. You should be reassured to know that Unity College continues to be fully accredited to offer face-to-face and online learning programs.

  • Is the 90 Quaker Hill Rd property or any other College property being sold?

    Demographic shifts and student demand for the traditional four-year residential model at our price point is the primary indicator that determines whether or not the main campus is a financially viable option for sustaining our environmental mission.  Rest assured that Unity College will continue to offer face-to-face, experiential, environmentally-focused programs. Unity College will also continue to offer residential options inline with student demand, preferences, and expectations.  If student enrollment indicates the demand for the main campus residential experience, we will continue to utilize the 90 Quaker Hill Rd property as long as it is financially viable to do so.  If it is no longer financially viable, the College leadership has the ability to explore selling the main campus or any other college assets that are not financially viable in order to ensure resources are allocated to best serve our students, their needs, and the long-term sustainability of the College.

    National trends in higher education show a decreasing number of college-age students, due to low birth rates, with an increased number of higher education options.  As a result, we’re excited to broaden our student audience to include non-traditional college students, who are often place-bound or unable to put their lives on-hold for four years to come for the traditional residential experience.  Instead, this growing demographic of students are looking for accessible, affordable options that allow them the ability to take a mix of courses in-person or online as the circumstances of their lives allow.

    These in-person courses and experiences may occur at Unity College Sky Lodge in rural western Maine, the rocky coast of Acadia National Park, the main campus at 90 Quaker Hill Rd, or anywhere in between. The goal is to ensure that the location of the class supports the learning objectives of the course and the needs of the students. Face-to-face learning is a key part of our future, and we want to make sure that we continue to provide students with the best experience possible. That’s the promise of the hybrid model, and we are confident it will benefit students.

  • Is Unity College continuing with its commitment to the environmental mission?

    Unity College’s dedication to the environment and sustainability as part of its mission is unwavered.  We are advancing our mission by making Unity College more accessible, affordable, and flexible to meet the needs of a growing new demographic of college students.  We know that our mission has to transcend any one location or modality in order to meet students where they are and offer a Unity College education that fits their needs.  Our mission allows us the ability to offer a Unity College education when, how, and where students want to learn.

  • What is the board’s response to the path forward?

    As fiduciaries, we, the Board of Trustees, are entrusted with the responsibility to ensure the long-term sustainability and success of Unity College as an institution. Right now, higher education is under extreme stress. Many small, private colleges are struggling financially, and more students are questioning the value of a traditional four-year undergraduate degree. And yet, Unity College’s environmental mission is more relevant than ever. In recent years, the College has taken significant strides in broadening its educational base to become more inclusive, reaching new learners interested in sustainability, as well as introducing new degrees and certifications…

    Read the entire statement from the Board of Trustees.

  • What do all these changes mean for me?

    If you’re a student, it means transitioning away from the traditional two-semester academic model in favor of a more student-focused, affordable, and flexible model – Unity College Hybrid Learning. You will be assisted in completing your current degree program through Hybrid Learning or you can move directly to a Hybrid Learning program and take advantage of both online and face-to-face courses.  We plan to resume offering in-person courses once it is safe to do so and COVID-19 is no longer a concern.

    If you’re already a student in the Hybrid Learning program, there will be little visible change.

    If you’re any of our local and national friends and supporters, it means that the school you have supported will continue to thrive in the 21st Century.

    If you’re a Distance Education student, there will be little visible change.

    If you’re a potential student, you can count on the same level of quality and support we’ve always offered, but now it’s more affordable and flexible to suit your academic goals and your lifestyle.

  • What is the benefit of a decentralized campus model for Unity College?
    • Going from one centralized campus to an entirely location-agnostic hybrid model with no dependence on a centralized campus is the very essence of the type of innovation needed to succeed in today’s economic and educational environment while maximizing all of our physical assets.

    • Currently owned assets include our Maine properties at 90 Quaker Hill Rd. in Unity, Unity College Sky Lodge in Jackman/Moose River, our building in Portland, and McKay Farm and Research Station in Thorndike.

    • This new approach will allow us to evaluate each property based on its utility to our environmental curriculum, and assess its viability on a case-by-case basis.
  • What role did COVID-19 play in the College’s decisions?
    • COVID-19 contributed to a large decline in enrollment and a projected $12-14M revenue shortfall in the 2020-21 year. This can only be turned around by our transition to Unity College Hybrid Learning and by allowing us to explore divesting from any of our current assets that are deemed non-critical.

    • As we continue to navigate a global pandemic, this model provides a COVID-19-resistant education. Further, once we do begin offering in-person courses, students will continue to have the flexibility throughout the year to choose a remote-learning location (Unity College Sky Lodge in rural Jackman, the rocky coast of Acadia National Park, and individual cities like Portland, to name a few) or continue their courses online.

    • Not only does this create further access and flexibility, but also considers those who are highly susceptible to COVID-19 or other ailments and allows them control over their Unity College education.

    • The transition to Hybrid Learning is one that will allow Unity College to break away from the traditional higher education model and truly live its mission. COVID-19 sped up the process of this transition by putting us in a position to lean into Unity College: Hybrid Learning sooner than anticipated.

    • At a time when some other institutions are shutting their doors or waiting for things to return to the old normal, Unity College has taken this opportunity head-on to embrace a new, innovative higher education model meant to be flexible, accessible, and affordable.

    • Classes for all Unity College students will be provided online during the 2020-21 year. In fall 2021, Unity College will complete the transition to Hybrid Learning and re-launch face-to-face learning, post-COVID uncertainties.
  • How has the decline in enrollment for the residential and Hybrid Learning programs impacted employment at Unity College?
    • Unity College is projecting a 33% enrollment decline for the residential and Hybrid Learning programs for the 2020-21 year.

    • The layoffs were not the result of the decision to transition to Hybrid Learning, but rather the result of the projected $12-14M revenue shortfall in the 2020-21 year due to the 33% decline in enrollment.  The positions impacted were determined as non-viable in meeting the needs of this smaller group of students.  There are courses and services that will not be offered as a result of this decline in enrollment and the shift to online learning for 2020-21.  It is our hope that enrollment in this program will bounce back and we’ll be able to re-hire for many of these positions to meet the needs of our students.

    • The 2020-21 layoffs are intended to be a one-time, non-tiered decision.

    • Since March, when COVID-19 concerns resulted in the move to remote learning, Unity College has worked to reassign employees to roles that supported our students through this change.  As we made the decision to transition to Hybrid Learning, many employees were reassigned to new or similar roles to support our students while filling the needs of that unit.

    • 15% of our workforce was laid off in order to maintain the financial integrity of the 2020-21 budget.

    • We have made the decision to also furlough 11% of our workforce, with hopes of reinstating them as soon as financially feasible. Furloughed employees will continue to collect full benefits during their furlough at no cost to them.

    • All laid off employees will receive severances commensurate with their years of service and position category.

    • These difficult decisions were implemented to ensure that Unity College can continue to support our current students, and position ourselves for the institutions long-term viability.
  • What is the status of Unity College’s endowment?

    Unity College’s endowment has grown to approximately $15M over the last 5 years. For a complete picture of our investment portfolio and endowment performance, please see the report linked here.

  • Will students have a primary residential location?
    Students will have the flexibility to choose among our primary residential locations to design an education experience as high- or low-residency as they want. Students who choose a more traditional residential experience are able to “put their suitcase and mini-fridge” at any of the primary residential locations where courses are being offered.  Other students may choose to fully maximize the low-residency option and make their current home their base.
  • How are locations tied to the Articles of Incorporation?

    Unity College prides itself on being rooted and operating in a variety of owned and leased locations across the state of Maine. Unity College owns properties in Thorndike, Portland, Moose River, and Unity. The current Articles of Incorporation are written to be inclusive of all of these locations, as well as any new potential locations where Unity College will grow in the future.

  • What are the official social media pages for Unity College?

    We encourage you to follow us through the official Unity College social media outlets. On these pages, you will find updates and official messages from the College along with opportunities to engage with the exciting work happening at Unity College! 

    Please note that Unity College is not affiliated with other social media pages outside of those listed below and is not responsible for the accuracy, opinion or content outside of our official pages. Unity College is not affiliated with any closed Facebook groups, as all official Unity College Facebook pages are open and available to the public.  You will never be invited to join a closed group by someone on behalf of Unity College.

    If you have questions about our social media presence or information you’ve received about Unity College through social media, please contact us at advancement@unity.edu.

    Facebook:

    Instagram:

    Twitter:

    LinkedIn:

    YouTube:

  • How does the recent announcement about increased enrollment affect the decision to sell 90 Quaker Hill Road?

    The record enrollment at Unity College is attributable to a 130% increase in Distance Education students even as we experienced a 33% decline in our residential programs at 90 Quaker Hill Road.  The decision to sell or retain the 90 Quaker Hill Road property depends upon the enrollment of the residential program through Hybrid Learning which is currently at 400 students total and declining.  A minimum of 500 students living in residence, and a minimum annual enrollment of 650 students in the Hybrid Learning model, is needed to ensure we are able to provide meaningful residential programming along with strong curricular and academic support.  If new students are not interested in the residential campus option, or are unable to afford it, or instead prefer a low-residency model, the 90 Quaker Hill Road property will not be financially viable.  Unity College is committed to educating 21st century environmental stewards where they are.