2 Maine colleges make list of 35 ‘beautiful’ campuses


A student at UMaine offers parents and new students a look at the Mall area of the Orono campus in this 2010 BDN file photo.


There are a lot of factors kids take into consideration when choosing a college. How much will it cost me? Do graduates go on to make a lot of money? How well regarded is it? Is it in a cool city or a pretty place?

Students looking for a beautiful campus have a lot of choices, and it’s not surprising that some of those are in Maine.

The website greatvaluecolleges.net is dedicated to helping find inexpensive colleges and universities and puts out lists like the recent “35 Great Value Colleges with Beautiful Campuses.”

Colleges and universities were graded on affordability, awards and recognition, inclusion on other noteworthy “most beautiful college campuses” list articles, notable features (like significant architecture, famous buildings, outdoor activity centers, farms, botanical gardens, arboretums, historical relevance, etc.) location and full-time student retention rates.

Out of top 35 colleges, College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor was ranked 14th best and The University of Maine’s Orono campus was ranked 6th best, even though both colleges’ net costs of over $16,000 per year docked them points for affordability. In fact, they were among the most expensive colleges on the list, which also included Ole Miss, Harvard and The University of Hawaii at Manoa.

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I emailed the post’s author, Gabrielle Gibeily, to ask how the net cost was calculated, because it lists Harvard University as less expensive than UMaine. She said greatvaluecolleges.com uses the National Center for
Education Statistics’ College Navigator Database.

“College Navigator breaks it down as the cost for ‘Full-time beginning undergraduate students who paid the in-state or in-district tuition rate and were awarded grant or scholarship aid from federal, state or local governments, or the institution,” Gibeily said.

So Harvard may be much more expensive up-front (about $60,000 per year including room and board), but those who get grant and scholarship aid pay less an the end than UMaine students getting grants.

College of the Atlantic got points for its location in Bar Harbor right on the ocean, as well as its various gardens and the campus-wide Arboretum of Eden.

UMaine’s gardens, trails and “substantial Romanesque, Italianate and Neoclassical buildings,” helped its high ranking. As a UMaine grad, I was surprised to learn that the campus’ landscape was designed by architect Frederick Law Olmsted, who also designed Central Park and the grounds of the White House.

This isn’t the first time Maine colleges have attracted the website’s attention. An October list of “40 Most Beautiful College Campuses in Rural Areas” included COA and Colby College.