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What Maine can learn from Aroostook County’s college aspirations

When the BDN’s Maine Focus team first began diving into Maine educational data this fall, it wasn’t sure what it would find. Discovering that Aroostook County was at the forefront of sending young people to college was surprising.

By and large, both in Maine and nationwide, living in poverty harms one’s chances of graduating from high school and eventually enrolling in college. And as automation continues to redefine rural economies across the state, someone’s chance of rising above poverty without a college degree is fairly slim.

On the surface, Aroostook County’s economic picture indicates students should be struggling academically. The County’s 19 percent poverty rate is higher than the statewide and national average. Just 17 percent of adults over 25 have a bachelor’s degree. And nearly 50 percent of public school students are eligible for free or reduced-price lunch, a key indicator of economic status.

Despite the grim statistical picture, however, high schools in Aroostook County sent 67 percent of their students to college between 2009 and 2016, a larger share than every county except Cumberland, the richest county in the state by per capita income. And of those Aroostook County students who go to college, 67 percent earn a bachelor’s degree within six years, well above state and national averages.

The Fiddlehead Focus / St. John Valley Times is pleased to feature content from our sister company, Bangor Daily News. To read the rest of “What Maine can learn from Aroostook County’s college aspirations,” an article by contributing Bangor Daily News staff writer, please follow this link to the BDN online.

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