Affordable higher education systems are key to encouraging innovation, keeping talent in Maine, and attracting new talent
EDITOR’S NOTE: The following testimony was delivered by Dana Connors, president of the Maine State Chamber of Commerce, in support of Maine’s higher education systems funding in LR 3206, An Act Making Supplemental Appropriations And Allocations For The Expenditures Of State Government, General Fund And Other Funds, And Changing Certain Provisions Of The Law Necessary To The Proper Operations Of State Government For The Fiscal Years Ending June 30, 2020 And June 30, 2021, at a public hearing held on Monday, February 24, 2020, before the Joint Standing Committees on Education and Cultural Affairs and Appropriations and Financial Affairs. We have reprinted it here for your review.
Chairmen Breen, Millett, Gattine and Kornfield, distinguished members of the Education and Cultural Affairs Committee and the Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee: I am Dana Connors, president of the Maine State Chamber of Commerce. The Maine State Chamber is a proud co-leader of the MaineSpark Coalition that is dedicating to achieving the state goal that 60 percent of Maine adults have a credential of value by 2025. I am pleased to be before you this afternoon to talk about the importance of the proposed funding in the Supplemental budget for Maine’s Higher Education systems, which will help build and strengthen Maine’s future workforce.
Maine business leaders believe strongly that education is the single most important investment that can be made to ensure successful participation in the new, knowledge-based economy, earnings growth and improved health status. Post-secondary education and training are critical building block to ensure success in the workforce. Moving each and every Mainer along the educational continuum to their highest educational potential is imperative. We have all seen the charts and know that there is a huge difference in lifetime earnings between a college graduate and someone who drops out of high school: $1.5 million less per drop out. These staggering earning losses translate into less spending power, fewer contributions to the tax base, and less productivity.
The three goals within the state’s Strategic Economic Plan are Innovation, Talent, and the Critical Supports needed to meet those goals. Keeping Maine’s Higher Education Systems affordable is a piece of the solution, to encourage innovation, to keep our homegrown talent in Maine, and to attract new talent to our state.
College affordability is about more than just tuition expenses. There is the cost of living, basic needs, books, and much more that college students face, and at times could lead them to drop out. For our Higher Education Systems to maintain their low-cost tuition, we much ensure that they have adequate funding. The best way to address college debt is college affordability.
Restoring the proposed increases in the supplemental budget is necessary following flat-funding of Maine’s public post-secondary institutions in the second year of the biennium. Maine has a shortage of skilled workers, putting us at a disadvantage for the state’s economic growth.
As stated in our joint Making Maine Work report, “The great majority of Maine Community College System students end up working in a local community, and Making Maine Work: Growing Maine’s Workforce found that approximately 60% of University of Maine System graduates stay and work in Maine. As Maine’s student-age population shrinks, the University System is attracting record numbers of out-of-state students.”
We are asking you to support the Governor’s proposed restoration of public higher education funding. Thank you.