PRESS RELEASE: Commission to study college affordability holds second meeting

PRESS RELEASE: Commission to study college affordability holds second meeting

Commission tasked with exploring options to reduce the cost of higher education

August 26, 2014

AUGUSTA — The commission to study college affordability convened today in Augusta for its second meeting to discuss strategies for making college more affordable in Maine.

At today’s meeting, the commission focused on the concept of affordability and the ability of Maine’s current tuition and financial aid structure to maximize student success. A panel discussion was held on the State of Maine Grant program, a need-based program that provides grants to undergraduate students. Students, college employees, financial aid specialists, and others testified on the diminishing power of the Maine State Grant and the importance of financial aid in keeping higher education accessible and affordable.

“We heard testimony today that highlights the stress Maine families come under when trying to support their children in pursuit of higher education,” said Democratic Senator Rebecca Millett of Cape Elizabeth, the Senate Chair of the commission. “Unfortunately Maine is providing the same grant amount to students today that it did back in 1994 and we know our dollars don’t stretch as far as they did 20 years ago.”

Statistics show that the average debt for Maine college students had jumped 25 percent since 2008 to nearly $30,000–placing Maine with the 7th highest debt to student ratio in the nation. For the first time in history, student debt has surpassed credit card and auto loan debt and is second only to mortgage debt.

“It’s clear from our work that the Maine State Grant needs to increase,” said Democratic Representative Mattie Daughtry of Brunswick, the House Chair of the commission. “The $1,000 average grant allocation has remained flat since 1992 and has not even come close to keeping up with rising costs. Maine’s students need all the help they can get, and the Maine State Grant program is an integral part of that.”

The Commission to Study College Affordability and College Completion is expected to further discuss different ways for students to pay for college including examining issues like cost of textbooks and the potential role for open source textbooks.

The thirteen-member commission was created with the passage of LD 1849“Resolve, To Establish the Commission to Study College Affordability and College Completion,” and is tentatively scheduled to meet again on September 18, October 8, and October 22 at 9:30 a.m. in the Education and Cultural Affairs Committee, Rm 202, Cross Building, Augusta.

Contact:

Ericka Dodge [Millett], 232-5892; Ann Kim [Daughtry] 233-1838

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Matthea “Mattie” Daughtry, a Brunswick native, is the State Representative for the Maine House District 66

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