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December 5, 2017

Educate Maine report: Maine students are lagging in college completion rates

About Educate Maine

Educate Maine is a business-led education advocacy organization that champions college and career readiness and strives to increase the educational attainment of the Maine workforce.

The organization advances education policies and practices that prepare Maine students to be the next generation of engaged citizens.

Maine college students lag their New England peers in college completion rates and face greater costs, according to a report released today by Educate Maine.

In its yearly analysis of Maine's system from kindergarten to college and post-graduate, Educate Maine found that 48% of first-time full-time Maine college students get an associate degree in three years and a bachelor's in six years, one and a half times the normal program time. Over the same amount of time 58% of their New England peers complete their degrees.

The report also found that more than half of Maine college students leave the education pipeline without earning a post-secondary degree or credential, joining the large portion of adults in the workforce with some college but no degree.

Ed Cervone, executive director of Educate Maine, said it's no surprise college can take longer here given the large number of students that are the first in their family to attend.

"Some of them will lack the support to help them transition to college and stick it out," he said, adding that it's important to ensure students take a full load of 15 credits per semester to help keep costs under control. "From a financial standpoint, four years is cheaper than five years."

The report backs that up, showing that in 2014-15 the average net price of college for Maine students was 39% of per capita income, above the 36% for their regional peers.

Trends in completion rates vary by type of institution. The report found that completion rates at Maine's community colleges remain "well above" 19% for the rest of the region, while Maine's public university completion rate of 45% trails New England's 62%. At private colleges the completion rate in Maine is 67%, compared to 73% for other New Englanders.

The "Education Indicators for Maine 2017 Report" lists a total of 11 categories from pre-school through college as they stood in 2013 when the first report came out and where they stand now, along with goals for 2019 in each category.

Next year's task list includes closing the college completion gap as well as the cost and debt gap with the rest of New England.

Workforce development

Asked what Maine employers can do help improve education at all levels, Cervone suggested going beyond monetary contributions — for example by volunteering their time as mentors. "A school would love a check from time to time," he said, "but you can also do a lot by getting involved, being there and sharing your experience."

He also said the education pipeline is directly related to workforce development and that employers have a choice between paying attention and rolling the dice.

"We do not have a vast supply of workers. In fact, we have a shortage," he said. "It's important that those coming through the education system and moving on to work are being well-served in reaching their full potential."

He added: "All of us have everything to gain and/or lose by the success or failure of our education system."

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