Community college system growth celebrated

SOUTH PORTLAND Maine

Just weeks in advance of a statewide bond issue vote that would benefit Maine’s community colleges, state officials Monday trumpeted a 57 percent growth in enrollment to 11,801 degree-seeking students over the last five years.

Maine Community College System President John Fitzsimmons told a news conference that the number of students entering directly from high school has increased 65 percent during the five-year period, 6.5 percent this year alone.

Joining to highlight enrollment gains, Gov. John Baldacci called the community college system “a great Maine success story.”

Added Baldacci: “The colleges are not only making a major difference in the lives of thousands of Maine people, they are also helping to build a stronger Maine economy by increasing the skill level of our work force.”

Officials said 4,283 more students are seeking degrees at the seven colleges now than were enrolled in 2002, the year before the community colleges were established.

“In five short years, Maine’s community colleges have proven that if Maine people have access to a low-cost, high quality education, they will respond,” Fitzsimmons said. “We built it, and they came.”

Fitzsimmons said Question 3 on the November’s ballot includes $15.5 million in bonding for the community colleges and he said that would be critical in meeting increases in demand.

“The tremendous growth of the community colleges has severely taxed our facilities,” he said in a statement. “The need exists across the system to renovate buildings and reconfigure classroom and laboratory spaces to make them more efficient and better equipped to serve increasing numbers of students.”

Officials said Southern Maine Community College has experienced the most dramatic growth of the seven colleges, experiencing a 140 percent increase in degree-seeking students since 2002.

–Associated Press



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