In late April, the legislature passed the supplementary budget with strong bipartisan support. Among the many budget items, I am very proud of the investments in workforce training and education.
We created the Education Rainy Day Fund, which will ensure the state continues to meet its funding obligation to Maine’s cities and towns.
We’ve made sure that Jobs for Maine Graduates programs will be available to middle and high schools across Maine.
We have helped vocational and technical education programs purchase materials and equipment that will be used for skills development and training.
Finally, we’ve made it possible for Maine community colleges to offer up to two years of free community college to Maine students in the graduating high school classes of 2020 through 2023. It’s that last bit I really want to discuss in this chronicle because I think it will make a huge difference for people, especially young adults whose education has been disrupted by the pandemic that has been going on for years.
Throughout the district, many Maine residents enroll in York County Community College programs. With the new funding the Legislature approved in the Supplementary Estimates, YCCC announced the York County Promise Free College Scholarship. The scholarship will cover tuition and fees for a one-year associate degree or certificate. Being a last dollar scholarship, eligible students must accept all federal and state grants awarded to them. All costs beyond that will be covered by the scholarship.
To be eligible, students must have a 2020, 2021, 2022, or 2023 high school diploma or equivalent; enroll full-time, earning 30 credits per year; pursuing an associate degree or college degree; accept all federal and state grants and scholarships; participate in academic planning and stay on track to completion; and live in Maine at the time of enrollment and while enrolled in the program. If you would like to apply, please visit yccc.edu/yccc-announces-the-york-county-promise-free-college-scholarship/ and click the “Apply Now” button at the bottom of the page.
Free community colleges will change people’s lives and transform Maine’s economy and communities. The most direct benefit will be for the students themselves, who will not have to pay tuition or compulsory fees. Additionally, the fact that students can enroll full-time increases the likelihood that they will stay in the program – and graduate. But also, businesses in Maine will benefit: the community college offers workforce training programs that last less than a year. This allows people to quickly access a well-paid job, settle down and start a family. It’s local training for local jobs.
A free community college will help Maine achieve the goal we are always working towards: encouraging young Mainers to stay and attracting out-of-state workers to Maine. If an affordable option for a high-value education is in Maine, then we can educate and train our students locally – then set them up with local employment afterwards. This is how we rebuild our communities, strengthen our economy and improve the quality of life for all Mainers.
As always, I am honored to represent you and your family at Augusta. Hope you had a happy and safe Memorial Day weekend. To all who have served or are currently serving, thank you and to your families for your sacrifice.
Susan Deschambault represents Senate District 32, Alfred, Arundel, Biddeford, Dayton, Kennebunkport and Lyman. She can be reached at [email protected] or 207-287-1515.