Making students ready for college is a top priority

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This is scary: In Maine, for every 100 ninth-grade students, 76 graduate from high school four years later. Of those, 41 students immediately enter college. Of those in college, 31 remain enrolled in school in their second year. And, of those, 22 students graduate with either an associate degree within three years or a bachelor’s degree within six years.

What this means is that 78 out of every 100 Maine ninth-graders this year will become adults without a college degree, diminishing their ability to earn a decent wage.

The figures, compiled by the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education, are startling. The recently organized Maine Readiness Campaign intends to turn the numbers around and is looking for high schools willing to partner in this effort.

Maine has the lowest rate of adults holding college degrees in New England for reasons that have more to do with the cost of education and the ability to pay than a willingness to learn. Susan Gendron, commissioner of Maine’s Department of Education, is convinced that partnerships between schools, government, businesses and civic groups can, if not ensure a college diploma, certainly help high school students make ready for college.

To participate, schools have until June 9 to submit their applications for partnership to the state. We urge every school district in Maine to do so, and we urge businesses and town councils to be sure the districts do.

We also urge the state to assess what communities – like Lewiston and Auburn, with their College for ME initiative – are already doing to improve college attendance and graduation so programs can work cooperatively and effectively.

The goal of the Maine Readiness Campaign is both simple and difficult. It is to create a climate in which all students in Maine will graduate from high school ready for college, career and citizenship. It should be Maine’s top priority.

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