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Maine Technical College System

News Release

Scholarships target high school students without college plans

Wed., February 26, 2003
CONTACT: Alice Kirkpatrick
Tel: (207) 767-0116, ext. 3

AUGUSTA, Maine — Two hundred Maine high school students who might not have gone to college will receive up to $2,000 in scholarship funds to attend a Maine technical college, thanks to a $200,000 matching grant from The Betterment Fund to the Maine Technical College System (MTCS). The gift was announced Wednesday at the MTCS system office at a meeting of the System's Board of Trustees.

Unlike most scholarships, which are based on competitive criteria, the technical college scholarships are designed to reach those students who are academically capable of college work, but who haven't made financial and other plans for college. The scholarships will provide $1,000 per year for a one or two-year program, for a total of up to $2,000.

"There are many high school students who are capable and talented and who may harbor dreams of college but aren't following through because of finances, lack of planning, or other issues," said MTCS President John Fitzsimmons. "Our intent with this scholarship is to reach out to them and make college possible," he said.

The scholarships will be awarded this spring to 100 juniors and 100 seniors from 25 high schools and secondary technical centers in Maine. Scholarship recipients are selected by their school principal or director based on their ability to benefit. Financial need and whether they are first generation college students may also be considered in their selection. Juniors were included at the suggestion of school officials, to give the students a year to plan for college, improve their grades if necessary and/or take any additional prerequisites needed for their desired program.

Fitzsimmons said that the students the scholarships target would, in other states, typically enroll in their local community college. Nationally, 17 percent of high school students enroll directly in a community college; in Maine, only seven percent enroll in the technical colleges. The System's plan to convert the technical colleges to community colleges, which is now before the Legislature, is expected to draw more students into college. If approved by the Legislature, the colleges will change their names to "community college" this fall.

According to The Mitchell Institute, in 2000-2001, 66 percent of Maine high school seniors planned to go to college but only 55 percent actually entered college the following fall, below the national average of 58 percent. The National Alliance of Business projects that the national average will rise to 75 percent by the end of the decade.

"At a minimum, Maine must keep up with the nation," said Fitzsimmons, adding that he preferred to see the State set an aggressive goal to be among the best in the nation.

Lack of financial resources and planning for college are the primary barriers to students pursuing higher education, according to the "Barriers to College in Maine" study conducted last year by The Mitchell Institute. The study also found that students who do not go on to college often come from families in which neither parents went to college. Also, most are not in the top academic track in high school.

The Maine Technical College System's Maine Career Advantage (MCA) program will oversee the scholarship program. MCA staff will help students clarify their career interests and work with them and their parents to complete college application and financial aid forms, as well as provide support as they transition into college. MCA coordinates internships, career awareness and other projects geared to helping Maine youth transition into college and careers.

The scholarship is a pilot project. Students' progress and post-college plans will be followed by the System to assess the impact of the scholarships. Officials say they hope to add more scholarships in the future.

The Betterment Fund was created by the will of the late William Bingham, 2nd, a resident of Bethel, Maine, upon his death in 1955. Its grants reflect Mr. Bingham's interest in education and in the improvement of health services in the State of Maine.

Board approves Civil Engineering Technology Program at EMTC

In other Board action, trustees granted approval to Eastern Maine Technical College (EMTC) in Bangor to offer a new Associate in Science in Civil Engineering Technology. The program, which will begin this fall, is receiving support from businesses in the area and around Maine. According to EMTC President Joyce Hedlund, ten companies have committed to provide financial support.