Phil Bartlett, Maine State Senate District Six  
 
 

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Senator Bartlett Seeks to Renew the Promise of Higher Education in Maine

August 15, 2006

AUGUSTA–As students throughout the state prepare to return to school, Senator Phil Bartlett has introduced legislation to provide a new approach to expanding access to higher education for Maine residents.

"Although Maine has one of the highest high school graduation rates in the country, we continue to lag behind in attainment of higher education degrees," said Bartlett . "If we are to compete in an increasingly global economy that demands skilled workers, we must make the commitment to give every student the opportunity to obtain post-secondary education."

Bartlett's bill, "An Act to Renew the Promise of Higher Education," would create the Maine Higher Education Authority, an independent agency charged with raising the aspirations of Maine students and ensuring that no one is denied access to higher education due to an inability to pay.

"Unfortunately, too many of our students do not seek post-secondary education because they lack the financial resources to pay escalating tuition rates," said Bartlett . "While we cannot guarantee that every student will successfully complete a higher education program, we have a responsibility to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to do so."

The Maine Higher Education Authority will be charged with:

  • helping change the culture in Maine to create the expectation that every child will seek some type of post-secondary education or skills training;
  • using public/private partnerships to build an endowment to fund scholarships and loans to bridge the gap between a student's ability to pay and the cost of enrolling in a higher education program;
  • developing a loan forgiveness program for students who successfully complete a two- or four-year course of study and choose to stay in Maine following graduation; and
  • strengthening collaborative relationships between policymakers, public and private colleges, public school districts and Maine's business community.

"By creating an independent agency focused exclusively on higher education, we will send a strong message that Maine is committed to helping every child achieve his or her potential," said Bartlett . "We will also be laying the foundation upon which our future economic prosperity will be built."