The process used by the NCAA to clear Bridgton Academy and other prep schools across the country for inclusion in their initial-eligibility process has left officials from Bridgton concerned and frustrated. While the NCAA has cleared these schools they remain on a watch list with no apparent path to being removed from the list.
"We understand and fully support the NCAA’s effort to examine and identify the academic legitimacy of some non-traditional secondary schools, but we are concerned about the integrity of the process in which this investigation has been conducted," says Headmaster David N. Hursty. "Several schools on this list have long traditions both of academic and athletic excellence, including Bridgton Academy, Fork Union Military Academy and Oak Hill Academy, and have worked tirelessly to meet the rigorous standards for accreditation, as well as the NCAA eligibility rules; to include these schools on such a list is a travesty."
Edward C. Wallace, Captain, U.S. Navy (Ret.), and director of the United States Naval Academy Foundation confirms that Bridgton Academy graduates who attend the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, MD, are highly successful students in the classroom, regardless of whether or not they participate in athletics.
"The U.S. Naval Academy Foundation preparatory school program has been affiliated with Bridgton Academy for over thirty years. The purpose of this affiliation is to provide deserving candidates a post-high school year of academic reinforcement before they enter the challenging academic environment at the Naval Academy," Captain Wallace reports. "The success of our Bridgton Academy students has been outstanding, with many majoring in Engineering, Math and Science, and earning academic honors. In short, we are most pleased with Bridgton Academy and the great service it provides in preparing our students for the U.S. Naval Academy."
The academic success of Bridgton Academy alumni in college is demonstrable.
"When compared to the national average as reported by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), a higher percentage of Bridgton Academy alumni actually graduate from college, and they do so in less time," Hursty reports. "Clearly, our students are prepared for the academic rigors of college."
Founded in 1808, Bridgton Academy is non-traditional in that it is the only accredited college preparatory school in the United States whose student body is comprised of postgraduate students; it does not offer a 9th through 12th grade curriculum. Although a few students who may be a few credits short of the Academy’s diploma requirements will be admitted, as Bridgton Academy is approved by the State of Maine to grant a diploma, the vast majority of the student body has earned high school diplomas. During its nearly two hundred-year history, it has developed a reputation for preparing young men for the rigors of college and beyond by helping them develop the academic skills, study skills, self-discipline and self-confidence necessary to succeed both in college and in life.
With older students, Bridgton Academy emulates the college environment and experience, yet with more structure, discipline and support than that provided in college. Consequently, Bridgton Academy offers a true transition year between high school and college, rather than another year of high school. The result is that Bridgton Academy students leave with the confidence and maturity necessary for success in college and in life.
Stephen Corbett, a professional player in the NFL for many years and a 1970 alumnus of Bridgton Academy, describes the significant impact that his experience at Bridgton Academy made in his life: "At Bridgton, I transitioned from a kid without any academic discipline or study skills to a young man who had not only academic skills, but also life skills," he said. "Faculty members were great teachers and mentors who had a tremendous influence on my development as a person. Once I had developed the discipline, I experienced success in the classroom, and the self-confidence which resulted enabled me to accomplish so many different goals in my life."
As Hursty explains, the Bridgton year is a year of challenge and commitment: "Faculty challenge students academically more than they have ever been challenged; help them to develop the self-discipline necessary to met these challenges, particularly with ten hours of enforced study hall each week; and then hold them accountable for the work. Students commit to working harder than they ever have before. Often, the result is improvement in students’ grades, accompanied by improved self-confidence towards academics. If our students were not demonstrating this improvement, then we wouldn’t be doing our job."
Bridgton Academy officials report that no one from the NCAA has ever visited the school to evaluate its academic credibility, and would welcome the opportunity to open its doors for their examination.