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April 25, 2013

USM study debunks college, career readiness myths

A study conducted by the Maine Education Policy Research Institute at the University of Southern Maine debunks several commonly held beliefs about Maine students' readiness for college and their post-high school academic performance.

MEPRI researchers examined data collected on the state's 2010 graduating class to help educators and legislators understand how Maine college students compare to national enrollment and performance trends.

Among the study's key findings:

  • A majority of Maine students attend college: Immediately after graduation, 60% of Maine's 2010 high school graduates enrolled in a two- or four-year college, a percent that has remained fairly consistent through the past two decades. Of this group, 90% enrolled as full-time students.
  • A majority of Maine students attending college here have academic performance equal to those who choose an out-of-state education: Approximately 30% of the high school graduates who immediately enrolled in college chose an out-of-state institution. On average, those going out of state scored four points higher on the Maine High School Assessment than those who remained in state.
  • Less than 9% of students at a University of Maine System campus require remedial coursework: For those first-time, full-time students who attended a UMS campus upon graduation, less than 9% took a remedial math or English course, although remedial course rates varied widely across UMS institutions.
  • Fewer Maine students drop out of college as compared to national norms: For first-time students enrolled full-time in a UMS institution, 84% returned to a university for a second year, a persistency rate that is approximately 10% to 20% higher than similar institutions nationwide. The dropout rate is approximately 7.5% higher for remedial course takers, but still below the national level for all college students.
  • More than 50% of students are considered "successful" in college by their second year: With success defined as students who earned at least a 'C' average or higher during their first year and returned full time for a second year of college, approximately 58% of students were classified as successful. Of those students from less affluent homes (students who were eligible for free or reduced-price lunch), 47% were classified as successful, as compared to 60% of students not in that category.

Researchers concede that too few of the state's high school students attend college. According to recent studies, 90% of the fastest-growing jobs in the nation will require post-secondary education or training, and the number of jobs in Maine requiring post-secondary education or training will increase by 15,000 in the current decade.

The finding that only 60% of students initially enrolled in a college or university indicates that there is work to be done, they concluded.

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