Admissions - New class at Mass. Maritime happy to get started
Photo By Cape Cod Times/Steve Heaslip
Nearly every freshman college student and their family dread that moment. The time to say goodbye. In the Massachusetts Maritime Academy football stadium stands Saturday afternoon, the annual ritual played out under sunny summer skies. Mothers discretely wiped away tears from beneath oversize sunglasses. Fathers tried to look stoic and siblings received bigger hugs than ever.
"I'll make you fried chicken when you come home," one mother yelled to her son, as he filed out of the stands with his 418 classmates, the largest class in the school's history.
With 1,500 enrolled this year, the college is nearing its goal of 1,600 students. Twenty years ago, that freshman class was less than half the size of the class of 2017, said academy President Adm. Richard Gurnon, and the state considered closing the school.
The college specialized in training marine engineers to keep merchant ships running and had only two majors. But as foreign-flagged fleets, unencumbered by the expense of hiring American crews, replaced what had been a U.S.-dominated shipping industry, those jobs dwindled and enrollment shrank as low as 500 and was around 800 in the 1960s.
Gurnon said the school's graduates found employment at many shore-based companies that recognized that the skills needed to keep a large vessel running and to navigate the international waters of commerce were valuable for other occupations.
The academy added five majors, including international business, facilities engineering, marine safety and environmental protection, emergency management and energy systems, including renewables.
Graduates average $76,000 in salary in their first year after matriculation, Gurnon said. Eighty-six percent of the class that graduated this past June found employment, Gurnon said, and he expects that number to be closer to 100 percent within the next six months.
In these days, when colleges and universities are being criticized for saddling families and students with debt without educating them to enter the workforce, the academy was cited by Forbes magazine as one of the top 25 in the country for the ratio of income earned over a 30-year period to the cost of the education.
The school ranked just behind Harvard and in front of many other better-known Ivy League schools.
The reputation of being a good return on investment was not lost on parents Saturday. Resting with her mother and father in the shade of a tree on the campus, Aoife Callainan, 18, of Falmouth, admitted to some nervousness about the two-week orientation ahead. But, with an upperclassman brother and a sister who graduated a few years before and is now working in international business in China, she didn't have many worries about her future beyond graduation.
"It's a great experience," said her father, John Callainan. "They graduate prepared with life skills for the world beyond."
He said Aoife's older sister had three job offers in her senior year ranging from $60,000 to $90,000.
"The return on investment is really high at this school," said Lisa Vitale, of Brewster, whose son Dominick, 19, said he didn't want to get out of school and not have a job.
The difference with the academy's orientation is that the transition to an adult life away from home also means trading away some freedoms for a more regimented, military lifestyle.
Even as the new students waited eagerly or nervously in the stands, their heads shorn, wearing yellow T-shirts, blue shorts and knee-high socks, construction workers were busy overhead, walking the beams of an expanded dormitory. It is part of $60 million in construction projects currently underway or being planned.
On their way out of the stadium, Patty and Brandon Ives of Goshen, Conn., were dry-eyed.
"I cried last week," Patty Ives said. They don't expect they will get a call from academy staff telling them their son Connor, 18, wants out.
"He loves the water," Brandon Ives said. He said his son was particularly impressed by his new dorm's water view. Ives couldn't resist a little kidding. "Yeah, wouldn't it be great if you got to go to school here?"
Article written by Doug Fraser/ Cape Cod Times
August 18, 2013