The Compact began its work by asking: In which areas could improvements be made that would lead to real gains in educational attainment?
Three major areas emerged.
The first is preparation. Many Maine students lack exposure to the culture of going to college. They require rigorous high school courses, school and community support to become academically and financially prepared for college. And they need secure pathways between high school and college to avoid getting lost in the transition.
The second is affordability. Nationally, college tuition has outpaced growth in family incomes and student aid in recent years. New strategies are needed to help traditional-age college students and adults, particularly those with low incomes, pay for college.
The third area is retention. For adult learners especially, there are multitudes of reasons, from work pressures to family responsibilities, to veer off the road to a college degree. Innovative strategies are needed to help them persist.
After identifying these broad challenges, the Compact formed three corresponding committees to explore issues related to each. Committee members consulted regional and national experts to explore how other states and regions have addressed similar problems. They identified "best practices," and then carefully examined how these models might be applied to the unique challenges facing Maine. After research and deliberation, the committees crafted recommendations to address Maine's educational attainment challenges.
The full Compact then narrowed its focus to address three key areas of opportunity: encouraging all Maine high school students to prepare for and succeed in college, helping Maine adults without college degrees to earn them, and changing the educational values held by Maine people. It crafted five high-impact action strategies to help shift the paradigm from higher education for a privileged few to College for ME.
Two of the Compact's action strategies aim to help high school graduates enroll and succeed in college. These are:
- Increase financial aid to improve access to and persistence in college for low-income students.
- Provide early college experiences at all Maine high schools.
Two of the action strategies aim to encourage and support adult students. These are:
- Establish pathways to postsecondary education so that more adults can earn college degrees.
- Encourage and support Maine employers to develop and strengthen employee education programs.
A fifth strategy aims to change the expectations and behaviors of Maine citizens regarding the importance of a college education.
- Launch a comprehensive College for ME campaign to change the expectations and behavior of Maine people regarding college education.
Budgets for the five Action Strategies are presented in Appendix A. Summaries of other ideas developed by Compact committees appear in the section of this report titled Additional Considerations.
The analysis and recommendations of the Maine Compact for Higher Education is contained in our publication, Greater Expectations, which is available on this website. Greater Expectations can also be downloaded in full as a PDF file, or you can request a copy by contacting the Compact office.
Greater Expectations contains the following segments: