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Maine Workforce Crisis and Changing Higher Education Marketplace Prompt University of Maine System Board to Consider New Vision for Public Education

Board to direct strategies to create affordable, lifelong access to flexible 21st Century learning opportunities that would include low and no-debt pathways to college degrees and employment and market-driven micro-credentials

PORTLAND, MAINE – Responding to Maine’s growing workforce crisis, concern about student debt nationally, and a fast-changing higher education marketplace, the University of Maine System Board of Trustees today discussed a draft Declaration of Strategic Priorities that envisions a public education continuum in Maine that creates learner success for all stakeholders from early childhood to retirement through low and no-cost access to interdisciplinary academic programs that are responsive to the needs of an ever-changing economy. The draft resolution, which will be considered for adoption after opportunity for campus and external engagement, would make it the policy of the University of Maine System’s institutions to exercise leadership among Maine’s education systems and policy makers to realize this vision.  

The draft declaration builds on the success of UMS’s One University initiative, committing Maine’s public universities to playing a vital role in bringing together education and policy leaders to ensure the continuum of public education is learner-centric, nimble, collaborative, data-driven, knowledge-generating, continuously improving, and properly resourced.

The Declaration of Strategic Priorities, drafted by UMS and Board leadership to synthesize a number of System-led efforts and Board reports over the last year on the changing nature of workforce needs, student expectations, and affordable access to market-responsive academic programs and credentials, was presented at the UMS’s November 19, 2018 Board meeting for public discussion. Among the actions UMS leadership would be directed to pursue if the resolution is adopted are:

  • Workforce Engagement: Develop programs and connections with associated industries that maximize workforce impact and business and economic development;
  • University of Maine System Research: Support Maine industries and foster business formation and expansion through increased focus on research and economic development;
  • Micro-Credentials: Collaborate with existing businesses, non-profit, and community partners to develop micro-credentials for economic advancement and expansion, with an initial report to the Board at its May 2019 meeting;
  • Adult Degree Completion and Employer Alignment: Prepare, adult learners with affordable, flexible, and stackable credential and degree-based programming aligned with the needs of this learner population and their employers;
  • Early College: Expand UMS early college programming to reach at least 5,000 Maine high school juniors and seniors and develop sustainable and scalable financial models for the programs; and
  • Student Debt: To help retain its status as a national leader in higher education affordability and tuition restraint, collaborate with policy makers to develop statewide strategies to increase affordability and reduce student debt, reporting on efforts no later than the Board’s May 2019 meeting.