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Letter from the President on the Path Forward

Subject: We share a Difficult Day but have a Path Forward.

Dear Friends of Unity College,

I have important news to share about the next step in the evolution of Unity College.

By now, we are well aware of the current state of higher education in our country, and specifically in New England. We’ve seen many small, private colleges close their doors for good, a trend that is attributable to many factors, the most important of which is their failure to adapt.

A significant drop-off in our four-year traditional residential enrollment means that we have had to make the very difficult decision to rapidly phase out the traditional semester model completely in favor of a 100% Hybrid Learning curriculum. Sadly, this economic reality also means that some faculty and staff will be leaving us. While no one likes to see friends and colleagues lose their jobs, like so many colleges, we have been pushed to evolve faster than anyone could have anticipated or else face the sad reality of going out of business altogether. Let me state however that these layoff are not intended to be tiered but a onetime decision as we work towards the Path Forward.

The Board has also given the College’s leadership team the option to retain a real estate firm to explore the sale of any assets including the main campus at 90 Quaker Hill Road. Our Hybrid Learning curriculum will leverage locations across Maine, including Unity College: Sky Lodge in rural Jackman, the rocky coast of Acadia National Park and individual cities like Portland, to provide hands-on learning opportunities in real-world environments, and classes would not be impacted by any decision in this area.

Change is hard, especially for higher education, but it is necessary. To everyone who has helped Unity College through the years – we appreciate you. To those who are leaving, there aren’t enough words to thank you for your service to our students and your colleagues.

Over the past several years, I have emphasized the need for Unity College to offer a relevant environmental education that is flexible, accessible, and affordable. I chose to make my career in higher education because I believe, with every fiber of my being, that helping people access college is a real and direct way to make the world a better place. It is a key step on the path to a sustainable, just, and equitable future. We have seen success with the rapid growth of Unity College Distance Education, which has allowed us to reach new audiences and to increase the diversity of both our student body and our faculty. I am proud of the success of Distance Education, but I know we must do more to truly live our mission.

This fall, Unity College will convene the inaugural class of Hybrid Learning, a new model of private education built on the premise that everyone deserves the opportunity to gain the knowledge they need to engage the sustainability problems affecting their own community.  Hybrid Learning places the student in control of their education through a nonstandard calendar, differentiated tuition, decentralized location, and a multi-modal curriculum. Students can control the cost, pace, and modality of their education to a greater degree than ever before. Students can also begin where they are, join us when they are ready, and launch into careers or graduate school with half of the debt burden most private college students are currently saddled with. 

Though these are difficult times, I am confident that the future of Unity College will be more diverse, more just, more equitable, and more sustainable. It is this future we must commit to and realize together to ensure that Unity College is truly living its mission as America’s Environmental College.

In Unity,

Dr. Melik Peter Khoury, 
President, Unity College