Maine State Chamber and Educate Maine release latest policy brief, entitled "Higher Education in Transition”
On Wednesday, February 24, 2021, Educate Maine and the Maine State Chamber of Commerce released their newest policy brief entitled “Higher Education in Transition: Challenges and Opportunities for Maine.” The partnership’s report explores the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on higher education in Maine and provides recommendations for how the state and its institutions can work collaboratively toward effective and equitable access to post-secondary education for all Maine people.
The coronavirus pandemic swiftly changed the way we live, work, and learn. For many, the public health crisis has put education plans on hold or fundamentally changed their learning environments. Many young people and adult learners alike are facing difficult choices or barriers to accessing further education.
"I always think—never waste a crisis,” said Rosa Redonnett, Associate Vice Chancellor for Student Success and Credential Attainment at the University of Maine System. “It forces us to step back and look at ourselves with very different eyes. The traditional higher education approach has been to meet students where WE are. COVID enables us to meet them where THEY are, and that is a very healthy outcome. COVID is forcing us to think holistically about what we offer and how we provide it."
Amid all this change, one thing remains the same: Maine’s future economic growth depends on a skilled workforce. Low-wage jobs in Maine were especially hard-hit by the pandemic, while high-wage jobs that typically require some level of post-secondary education grew.
“The quality of our workforce has always ranked high among Maine’s assets,” said Dana Connors, president and CEO of the Maine State Chamber of Commerce. “The education and training students receive at Maine’s quality higher education and credentialing institutions are often a game changer for many Mainers.”
“Since the early days of the pandemic here in Maine, our education community has been stretched pretty thin,” Connors added. “Yet, they have consistently risen to challenges before them and embraced innovations to meet the needs of their students, their employees, and their state.”
“Higher Education in Transition” offers four broad recommendations with targeted components that can help Maine achieve its goal of ensuring at least 60% of its population has a degree or credential of value by 2025. They are:
“We’ve started doing a lot that we should have been doing all along,” said Ed Cervone, Executive Director of the Center for Innovation in Education and VP of Strategic Partnerships at Thomas College. “Integrating more remote technology into our days will continue. It’s been a big eye opener to admissions, advancement, student success staff: Why haven’t we been using these tools more? We’re already seeing some advancements. It’s given us an opportunity to understand how to better use technology to deliver education more efficiently and to better connect with the world outside."
Maine's higher education institutions are an economic engine for the state. They have invested enormous amounts of time, energy, and money in adapting to serve students in this new reality. These investments support students seeking post-secondary education and are critical in order to achieve the MaineSpark 60% by 2025 goal and the goals laid out by Governor Mills' Economic Recovery Committee.
“A large role the state has is in how we encourage more people to go on to higher education,” said retired Central Maine Community College President Scott Knapp. “We have a lot of Mainers with some college but no degree. If we could get them all back, on track to get credentials or degrees, that would make us economically a lot more competitive as a state."
The policy brief can be found at www.educatemaine.org/research-reports or https://www.mainechamber.org/policy-brief-series-with-educate-maine.html.