Maine’s workforce challenges are acute and could imperil the state’s economy for a generation. Informed by these workforce needs, the state’s demographic challenges, and the need to meet student and employer expectations for post-secondary education in a rapidly changing marketplace, the University of Maine System adopted a Declaration of Strategic Priorities in December of 2018 that will guide and expedite higher education reform in Maine for the next three to five years.

The declaration refines and supplements prior outcome based planning and goal setting with immediate and specific calls to action. These actions move the state toward the establishment of an employer-engaged, efficient and cost-effective continuum of public education that provides the people of Maine with access to flexible, relevant 21st Century learning from early childhood to retirement. In adopting the declaration, the Board is making it the policy of the University of Maine System to exercise leadership and collaborate across education systems and with policy makers to realize this vision.

The strategic priorities also synthesize a number of System-led efforts and Board reports delivered over the last year on the changing nature of workforce needs, student expectations, and affordable access to market-responsive academic programs and credentials.

UMS is committed to a high quality education of students as well rounded, fully informed and engaged participants in their communities and the modern global society. Advancing the strategic priorities will support existing University objectives such as the plans to double nursing and engineering enrollment in response to workforce shortages that could leave thousands of healthcare, manufacturing, transportation, engineering consulting, and utility jobs unfilled over the next ten years.

The priorities also direct the universities to bring programming and services into alignment with the needs of Maine’s adult learner population and their employers. As part of this effort, the System is a founding member of the MaineSpark coalition that aims to prepare 60% of Mainers with a degree or workforce credential of value by 2025.

New student and state-focused objectives included among the strategic priorities include plans to expand early college participation to 5,000 high school juniors and seniors by 2022 and the opportunity for at least half of Maine students to graduate from high school with an Associate degree or equivalent credits by 2025. The priorities adopted by the Board also include a commitment to maintaining Maine’s national leadership in higher education affordability and working with policy makers to develop statewide strategies that address student debt.