Maine needs to be more ambitious about helping first-generation students through college

Education has long been called the great equalizer, especially for students who come from disadvantaged backgrounds. Having a college degree can increase lifetime earnings by nearly $1 million, and college graduates are significantly less likely to fall into poverty at any point during adulthood.

Yet, as a larger percentage of high school graduates in Maine choose to enroll in college, it is becoming increasingly clear that, for the most vulnerable students, college can be far from equalizing.

Almost half of all first-time, full-time college students who enroll in the University of Maine System are first generation, meaning their parents don’t have a bachelor’s degree. Many other students struggle with financial instability, making it exceedingly difficult for them to succeed at the college level.

On top of it all, Maine has one of the highest average student debt loads in the nation at $31,000. And nearly one-fifth of the state’s residents have taken on debt to attend college but never finished a degree, which can make it exceedingly difficult to keep up with loan payments.

The University of Maine System has worked for decades to try to improve both college access and completion, but it is clear there is much more work to be done.

The Fiddlehead Focus / St. John Valley Times is pleased to feature content from our sister company, Bangor Daily News. To read the rest of “Maine needs to be more ambitious about helping first-generation students through college,” an article contributed by Bangor Daily News, please follow this link to the BDN online.

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