Thornton Academy and University of New England Pioneer a Partnership to Offer Three-Year Bachelor's Degree for Motivated Students

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The unique agreement between the two institutions can save motivated and talented high school students tens of thousands of dollars.

Thornton Academy Headmaster Rene Menard receives signed articulation agreement from UNE President Danielle Ripich at the event celebrating their partnership.

"This innovative program supports motivated and talented students -- who are just the kind of student we want -- and saves them tens of thousands of dollars. It also sets them on a successful career path." UNE President Danielle Ripich

The University of New England (UNE) announced a pioneering partnership today that enables Thornton Academy students who complete a rigorous high school program to enter UNE’s College of Arts and Sciences (CAS) with sophomore standing and complete a bachelor’s degree in just three years.

Thornton Academy Headmaster Rene M. Menard said, “We are here today to announce a pioneering partnership, one in which the University of New England and Thornton Academy have collaborated to extend new opportunities to students in the liberal arts. Collaborating with UNE on this new program has been exciting, and we are honored to receive their endorsement. Thornton Academy and the University of New England are natural partners. Both of our schools have experienced extensive program growth and campus expansion, and we share an understanding that the world our students will enter at graduation has grown in ways we could not have imagined even a couple of decades ago. Today's announcement is part of a series of curricular initiatives representing our commitment to a liberal arts education.”

University of New England President Danielle N. Ripich said, “This special opportunity allows Thornton Academy students to complete their bachelor’s degree at UNE in just three years...entering with sophomore standing in a humanities or social science program of their choosing. We know that managing tuition costs and college debt can be particularly challenging for families today, so this innovative program supports motivated and talented students – who are just the kind of student we want – and saves them tens of thousands of dollars. It also sets them on a successful career path.”

Qualifying Thornton Academy students who complete 30 credit hours in the program and meet agreed-upon benchmarks will be given priority admission and merit consideration at UNE and, once admitted, will enter as sophomores in the College of Arts and Sciences. Thornton Academy Director of Academics Marsha Snyder said, “Initially only a few students will be eligible to take advantage of this. However, as we counsel students in the eighth grade about the opportunity that awaits them at Thornton, we expect more participation in the program. This is open to all students who are interested. The performance on the Advanced Placement tests is an important measure by which the University of New England assesses the agreement. Thornton Academy students will choose from 22 AP courses – all taught by Thornton faculty – in the six departments of Art, English, Foreign Language, History, Math, and Science.”

Award-winning journalist and writer Colin Woodard, State & National Affairs Writer at the Portland Press Herald and Maine Sunday Telegram, spoke about the importance of “Liberal Arts in the 21st Century” at the event. Woodard is the author of "American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America" (2011); "The Republic of Pirates" (2007); "The Lobster Coast" (2005), a cultural and environmental history of coastal Maine; and "Ocean's End: Travels Through Endangered Seas" (2000).

United States Senator Angus King, who spoke at the press conference, said, “Today’s globalized world is one of limitless possibility where information and ideas move seamlessly across borders. Our approach to education must mirror this reality, and prepare our students for the new challenges and expanding opportunities that await them after graduation. The partnership announced today between Thornton Academy and the University of New England is a shining example of how educators can think in new and innovative ways in order to provide this and future generations of students with the tools necessary to succeed in a rapidly changing landscape. I commend Thornton Academy and the University of New England for their forward-thinking collaboration, and for their dedication to the students they serve.”

Senator King also used the occasion to announce that the United States Department of Commerce has awarded an Export Achievement Certificate to Thornton Academy in recognition of its extensive work in attracting international students and providing significant economic development to the State of Maine. King said, “I also congratulate Thornton Academy for receiving a much-deserved Export Achievement Certificate from the Department of Commerce, an award that reinforces the importance of international education in a highly connected and highly competitive global marketplace.”

The partnership agreement was signed by UNE President Danielle N. Ripich and Thornton Academy Headmaster Rene M. Menard and announced at Thornton Academy in Saco, an independent town academy that serves local public high school students, as well as international students from more than 20 countries. Academy and University officials explained the partnership in Hyde Library in the historic Emery Building, one of the spaces newly renovated this academic year as part of the Classroom Enhancement Initiative that also produced the Arts & New Media Center and the STEM Laboratory.

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About University of New England
UNE is an innovative health sciences university grounded in the liberal arts, with two distinctive coastal Maine campuses and unique study abroad opportunities, including a new campus in Tangier, Morocco. UNE has internationally recognized scholars in the sciences, health, medicine and humanities, and offers more than 40 undergraduate, graduate and professional degree programs. The university educates the most health care professionals in Maine, and is one of just a handful of private universities with a comprehensive health education mission including medical, pharmaceutical and allied health programs. Visit

About Thornton Academy
Founded in 1811 and located in Saco, Thornton Academy is one of the nation’s oldest independent schools and one of the oldest public-private partnerships in the country. Thornton Academy is an independent town academy that offers a rigorous and broad-based program of academic, arts, and athletic opportunities that challenges middle and high school students to reach their potential in readiness for lifelong learning and productive participation in our dynamic world. For more information, visit or call 207-282-3361.

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Kathleen Taggersell
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