BIPARTISAN AND BROAD SUPPORT FOR MEASURE TO INCREASE COLLEGE RETENTION AND DEGREE ATTAINMENT
Gov. LePage’s commissioner, business leaders, higher ed leaders, and students endorse measure
AUGUSTA – A measure to increase the overall retention and degree attainment rate for the State of Maine by improving student performance and reducing the amount of time to degree completion has received resounding support from higher education leaders, the Maine State Chamber, students, Governor LePage’s Commissioner of Education, and the Maine Development Fund.
The bill LD 215, “An Act To Improve Student Retention in Maine’s Postsecondary Institutions,” would expand the Jobs for Maine’s Graduates’ (JMG) school-to-career transition model to postsecondary institutions.
“JMG students are a success story across Maine’s middle and high schools. And now, as Maine tackles this issue of degree completion, it only makes sense that we would build upon a proven model and existing relationships,” said State Senate Democratic Leader Justin Alfond of Portland, the bill’s sponsor. “JMG is the right partner for Maine college and university campuses to help meet the needs of some of our highest risk students and help them increase their chance at success in college.”
Eligible students must have previously been enrolled in a JMG high school program, been in or currently in foster care, or older youth who have earned a high school equivalency diploma within the five years prior to obtaining these services.
“I am living proof that JMG really does believe in Maine students,” said Nicole Padilla, a JMG Thomas College student from Milo. “At my lowest point, when I didn’t think I could afford to return to college, JMG was there to bring me back up, once more.”
Padilla also participated in JMG’s program at Penquis Valley High School. During her testimony she said, “When I thought of furthering my education at Thomas College, I was scared. I thought I’d have to face college alone. But when I was informed that Thomas had the first ever college JMG program, I was ecstatic.”
Beginning in the fall semester of 2014, Thomas College and JMG created a pilot program, funded by the Unity Foundation, to continue to provide the personal guidance and support offered by JMG at middle and high schools.
Carleigh Boston, a student at the University of Southern Maine, urged the committee to pass the bill to “support someone [like myself] in achieving their goals.” Boston was in the foster care system since the age of 11 and lived in more than 20 placements. She detailed her challenges in high school–having attended five high schools in her freshman year alone. She told the committee,”I know first-hand that a retention worker would have helped guide me better, bugged me when I didn’t reach out for help; and, I would have loved to [have] been a part of a student peer to peer support network.”
The bill directs JMG’s to provide mentoring and counseling services, course guidance and graduation planning, peer support services and financial guidance to students and at Maine’s postsecondary institutions.
- Student mentoring and counseling: A JMG Specialist will monitor student progress, including academic performance as well as connection to campus life.
- Course guidance and development of a graduation plan: An individualized plan of action will be developed for each student, in consideration of academic needs, academic support, and self-assessment.
- Peer-to-Peer Support: Staff will develop opportunities for peer-to-peer mentoring, including an alumni cohort approach as new youth are enrolled and leadership opportunities and connections to community resources
- Financial guidance: Students will be provided with navigational support to ensure a financial plan that maximizes all financial aid available to a student, including problems solving with short-term coverage emergencies such as alternative transportation, changes in housing arrangements, unexpected books or additional supplies needed for a course.
The state’s Education and Cultural Affairs Committee will be holding a work session in the coming weeks.