ORONO, Maine (AP) – Maine’s public universities need to improve their “branding” as a way to enhance their reputation, the University of Maine System’s top administrator says.

“Many of our programs and institutions are really excellent,” Chancellor Terry MacTaggart said. “We also need to have the reputation for being excellent.”

Maine students who elect to attend out-of-state colleges sometimes figure they’ll get a better education elsewhere, MacTaggart said, but with better branding they could be convinced otherwise.

Speaking Thursday at the Maine Symposium on Higher Education at the University of Maine, MacTaggart suggested that the state could counter the so-called “brain drain” by raising “the perceived value” of Maine’s higher education.

Strategies to improve an institution’s branding include paying competitive salaries to faculty and staff, increasing investments in research and examining various rankings to see if “we’re doing the right things” regarding such measures as class size, alumni contributions and how students fare after graduation, he said.

The annual conference sponsored by the Maine Compact for Higher Education promotes collaborative efforts to increase the number of Maine residents with bachelor’s degrees.

After the conference, MacTaggart expanded on his ideas about the importance of branding in establishing a school’s reputation in the public mind.

“The higher branding we have, the more likely it is that Maine students stay here and that students from other states come to Maine,” he said.

He said Maine’s public universities already are known for providing a solid, quality education, but each of the seven campuses needs to promote and continue to grow its own reputation for excellence.

The University of Maine, the state’s flagship campus, is “not that far away” from breaking into the nation’s top 50 public research universities, MacTaggart said, and with some help it could reach that level.

Information from: Bangor Daily News, http://www.bangornews.com

AP-ES-08-11-06 1113EDT

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