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News Release

Governor's Budget Would Boost Community College Nursing, Early College Programs

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Wednesday, January 25, 2006

CONTACTS: Alice Kirkpatrick
(207) 767-0116 x 3; akirkpatrick@mccs.me.edu

SOUTH PORTLAND, Me. - The Maine Community College System President John Fitzsimmons told trustees today that if the Governor's budget is adopted by the Legislature, the Community College System could add 70 new associate degree nurses to the Maine economy, and nearly double the number of high schools participating in its early college program for high school students. Fitzsimmons briefed the System's Board of Trustees on the Governor's proposed supplemental budget at a regularly-scheduled meeting today at Southern Maine Community College in South Portland.

In addition to expanding nursing and early college programs, the Governor's budget would also provide help with rising heating costs for the seven-college system, and allow Washington County Community College to deliver boat builder training in other regions of Maine, said Fitzsimmons. [See below for budget summary.]

"These targeted investments would help our colleges help Maine — by opening the door to college for more Maine students, and providing a boost to key industries in Maine that depend on our graduates, Fitzsimmons said.

Fitzsimmons added, "I want to thank the Governor for including the community colleges in his budget. These funds — including money for heating costs — will be a big help to our colleges which are working hard to balance unprecedented enrollment growth with rising operational costs."

If the nursing initiative is adopted by the Legislature, Fitzsimmons said, the community colleges would be ready this fall to enroll 70 new associate degree nursing students, easing a serious bottleneck that forces the colleges to turn away or delay the studies of hundreds of nursing applicants. Five of the seven colleges currently offer nursing programs, which accommodate about 400 students. Maine health providers currently show at least 1,000 nursing vacancies statewide each year. The vacancies are projected to grow to more than 5,000 by 2020.

The funds targeted for MCCS nursing programs would be used to launch a much-needed nursing program at York County Community College in Wells, and add new sections at each of the five other Community Colleges that offer nursing programs.

"Our goal is to maximize the impact of these dollars, and benefit as many regions of the state as possible," said Fitzsimmons.

Fitzsimmons commended the Governor for addressing the nursing shortage. "Health care is Maine's fastest-growing job producer, and offers some of Maine's best paying jobs — as well as being critical to our quality of life," he said.

Along with funding for nursing programs and heating costs, the Governor's proposed budget includes $500,000 to expand the System's Early College for ME program which helps high school students that have not traditionally enrolled in college, enter and be successful in college. The program provides scholarships, early testing, early college courses, and support with the admissions and financial aid process, and while in college.

The new funds will allow the program to nearly double the number of participating high schools, from 40 (this year) to up to 80. The Governor targeted the program — Maine's most comprehensive early college initiative — to be available in all of Maine's public high schools by 2008.

Also in the budget is $75,000 for Washington County Community College to deliver boatbuilder training in other regions of Maine. The funds will support apprenticeship and customized training along the coast, which employers have been asking for.

Residence Hall Design Contract Approved

In other action, Trustees granted approval for the System to enter a $750,000 contract with Pizzagalli Construction Company for the design phase of the System's residence hall project. [The Board gave preliminary approval at their meeting last November.]

New residence halls are planned for Southern Maine Community College, Central Maine Community College in Auburn, and Eastern Maine Community College in Bangor, to ease a serious housing crunch. The three facilities will add approximately 600 new beds — nearly doubling the residential housing capacity system-wide. The construction phase is expected to move forward this spring. If all goes as planned, CMCC and EMCC facilities will be ready for occupancy in fall 2007; SMCC in January 2008.

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 Summary of Governor Baldacci's FY06-07 Supplemental Budget Proposal for the Maine Community College System:  

  • $205,000 in FY2006 (current fiscal year ending June 30, 2006 ) and FY2007, to assist with high heating costs
  • $500,000 in FY2007 to expand Early College for ME program (high school to community college transition program)
  • $375,000 in FY2007 to expand registered nursing programs. Programs would be expanded at CMCC, EMCC, KVCC, NMCC and SMCC, and a new program would be added at YCCC.
  • $75,000 in FY2006 and FY2007 for Washington County Community College, to support customized training and apprenticeship training for boatbuilding companies in other regions of Maine.