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Maine's College Marks Good, but Degree Gap Persists

April 2, 2012

PORTLAND, Maine - Maine is near the national average in terms of citizens with college degrees, according to a new report which parallels another recent study that also showed some improving trends in the state's higher-education attainment.

The new report by the Lumina Foundation says 38.7 percent of Maine's adults have at least two-year college degrees, compared with a national average of 38.3. The Lumina study and one by the Maine-based Mitchell Institute point to the importance of reducing drop-outs from college and sending adult workers back to school to complete degree work.

Lisa Plimpton of the Mitchell Institute says students have to stick with their studies.

"Persistence in college, getting through and earning a degree, is just as much of an issue as access to college and enrolling in the first place."

Non-profit groups addressing the situation are zeroing in on the issues of affordability and academic preparation, and also working with business groups to encourage the creation of incentives to elevate the academic attainment of the state's work force.

The president and CEO of the Maine Community Foundation, Meredith Jones, says the Lumina Foundation's goal of raising the proportion of degree-holding Mainers to sixty percent is reasonable.

"We're a fairly homogeneous population. Too, we're not a huge state in terms of numbers. I mean, shame on us if we can't achieve these ambitious goals."

Jones's group helps fund a project by the Maine Development Foundation called the Maine Employers' Initiative, which tells busineses ...

"Take one more step that will encourage or provide whatever incentives necessary to get your incumbent work force, that might have some college, get them back into college."

Jones says Maine's economy will not go forward unless it produces individuals capable of taking the jobs of the future, and creating the jobs of the future.

Mark Scheerer, Public News Service - ME