Comment: New program will bring students back to college

Employers in Maine and business employers across the country need more skilled and better trained workers. Yet too many people are unable to obtain post-secondary degrees that can provide these skills.

In Maine, 60 percent of high school graduates attend college in the fall immediately after graduation. In six years, 63 percent of these students graduate from college. Each of these graduates is essential to supporting Maine’s current and future workforce and economic development.

What can we do to support students who start college but stop attending before they can complete a program? In our state, according to the University of Maine (UMS) system, there are approximately 185,000 adults in Maine who attended college but did not graduate.

Why is that? There are many factors, but one reason often cited is that financial limitations or hardship often prevent a student from staying in college. Creative financial programs are needed to help these students return to college and turn those “failed credits” into degrees. This benefits not only the student, but also their family, community and our state.

As a father of three young adults, I know from personal experience that earning a degree requires a much greater financial commitment today than it did for my generation.

How can we help meet these challenges?

The UMS recently pledged to make higher education as affordable and accessible as possible by freezing tuition fees for five of the past six years, including this year.

Additionally, I am glad that UMS, with the support of the state legislature and Mills government, has also brought attention and needed funding to adult completion efforts. Recently, UMS created a small debt remission program to support mature students returning to graduate school. This program is specially designed for those who have started college, have institutional student debt of up to $ 2,500 in one of our schools in the University of Maine system, are considered independent on their request free Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), have stopped attending and have not been enrolled for two years or more. UMS estimates that there are approximately 1,300 Mainers who qualify for the Small Debt Forgiveness Program.

To be eligible, a student must re-enroll in at least six credit hours (essentially two courses) towards a degree or certification. The student will work with a UMS Success Coach in conjunction with a campus academic advisor and other student support staff. Together, this team will create a plan to help students stay on track and graduate. Half of the student debt will be canceled after a successful semester has ended, and the second half will be canceled after successful completion of a second consecutive semester.

UMS’s Small Debt Forgiveness Program is modeled after a similar successful program at Wayne State University in Michigan, which has been in place for about four years. Data shows that students who return to college using this program stay in college and graduate.

The Small Debt Remission Program is a WIN-WIN-WIN program. Returning students earn when up to $ 2,500 of their university debt is forgiven and they receive the academic support and guidance needed to get back on track to graduation / certificate. which allows them to advance in their careers. UMS wins with higher enrollment and graduation rates. As we move closer to our goal of achieving educational achievement of 60% of Maine adults with valuable credentials by 2025, the state of Maine is winning. In addition, our community of employers will have access to more future trained and qualified workers to help them develop their businesses and contribute to the economic vitality of our State.

The Small Debt Relief Program is an important tool in ensuring that we have the skilled and educated workforce that our state will need to be competitive in the years to come. I wholeheartedly support him both as a business leader and as a business leader, and hope that we will see continued support and investment in this program in the future.


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About Georgia Duvall

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