“Know Before You Go” measure advances with unanimous support from workforce panel

 

Bill provides consumer-friendly data on college graduates’ earnings, employment rates 

AUGUSTA – Students and their families would have more information as they make higher education decisions under a bill that is advancing in the Legislature after winning the unanimous support of the Joint Select Committee on Maine’s Workforce and Economic Future on Monday.

LD 1746, the “Know Before You Go” bill, sponsored by House Majority Leader Seth Berry of Bowdoinham, would provide consumer-friendly information on the Internet about employment and earnings outcomes for graduates of Maine colleges and universities. The aggregate information would provide a window onto how graduates fare by major and institution at various time intervals after they complete their degrees.

“There’s plenty of information about the things going into a college education – the courses, the campus amenities and the extracurricular activities, just to name a few. But there’s virtually no information about educational output,” said Berry, House chair of the workforce committee. “Before making one of the biggest investments of their lives, students should have the answers to questions like, ‘How likely am I to find a job in my field?’ and ‘Will I make enough to support myself?’”

The bill has the support of the Maine State Chamber of Commerce, Jobs for the Future, an education and workforce development organization, the Legislature’s bipartisan Youth Caucus, the University of Maine System, the Maine Community College System, Maine Maritime Academy and the Maine Independent Colleges Association. The state Department of Education and Department of Labor also support the bill.

“This bill is a good first step towards reducing uncertainty and increasing access to a college education,” said Senator Linda Valentino of Saco, the Senate Chair of the committee.

The bill would also inform policymakers as they assess higher education needs and trends in the state’s job market.

Increasingly, states across the country are providing similar higher education outcomes data to the public.  For example, the nonprofit CollegeMeasures.org has created websites for a number of states, listing graduates’ average incomes and employment rates.

As amended, the bill would create a task force of 15 members to develop procedures around the maintenance and dissemination of the data, which is already held by the state Department of Labor and Department of Education. There is no fiscal note on the bill.

The bill goes next to the House floor.

“Know Before You Go” bill receives broad support at public hearing

Measure provides consumer-friendly higher ed data on graduates’ average earnings, employment rate and more

February 10, 2014

AUGUSTA – A measure to provide students and their families with information that will help them make higher education decisions won broad support from education and business leaders during a public hearing Monday.

The “Know Before You Go” bill sponsored by House Majority Leader Seth Berry of Bowdoinham would provide consumer-friendly information on the Internet about the actual employment rates of each program’s graduates, their average incomes, monthly debt payments and other outcomes data by major and institution.

At a time when higher education costs are up while the job market remains down, it’s more important than ever that students and families are able to make informed decisions about college.

“Maine students are asking important questions,” Berry said. “‘If I graduate on time, what are the chances I will find a job in my chosen field in Maine? If I do, will I earn enough per month to live on and pay off my student debt?’ With this bill, we will for the first time provide the answers they need and deserve.”

Megan Phelps, a student at Bowdoin College, said the measure would provide a significant resource for Maine students.

“It will allow Maine students and their families to make informed decisions about their educational investment,” she said in her testimony. “It is information that I wish I’d had access to and will be invaluable to future Maine leaders.”

Representatives of the University of Maine System, the Maine Community College System, Maine Maritime Academy, the Maine Independent Colleges Association, Jobs for the Future and the Maine State Chamber of Commerce were among those who testified in support of the bill before the Joint Select Committee on Maine’s Workforce and Economic Future, which Berry co-chairs.

“The jobs of the future will require education and training beyond high school and many of the highest-growth and highest-wage jobs will require a bachelor’s degree or beyond. Maine students deserve to know how much this education will cost them so they can make wise, well-informed decisions,” Jessica Laliberte of the Maine State Chamber of Commerce said in her testimony.

Rep. Matthew Pouliot, R-Augusta, testified in support on behalf of the bipartisan Youth Caucus. He said the measure would be a useful tool for Mainers facing large student debts.

Maine students have the seventh-highest average student debt in the nation. Sixty-seven percent of 2012 college graduates in Maine have student loans to pay back, with an average debt of $29,300 per borrower.

“Investing in yourself is the best investment you can make, yet the financial burden and uncertainty keeps too many Maine students from pursuing their education,” said Senator Linda Valentino of Saco, the Senate Chair of the committee. “This bill is a good first step towards reducing uncertainty and increasing access to a college education.”

The bill would also inform policymakers as they assess higher education needs and give Maine colleges and universities a better sense of needs and trends in higher education and Maine’s job market. The measure would merge data held by the state Department of Labor and Department of Education.

Increasingly, states across the country are providing similar higher education outcomes data to the public. For example, the nonprofit CollegeMeasures.org has created websites for a number of states, listing graduates’ average incomes and employment rates.

Supporting Maine Communities and Students

Dear Friends and Constituents:

We are a month into session and already very busy.

Preventing property tax hikes:

One of our biggest priorities is to restore $40 million in revenue sharing to our towns.

Last year, the governor proposed eliminating municipal revenue sharing. The Legislature was able to restore two-thirds of the cuts, but still needs to keep in place $40 million to meet the promise in the bipartisan budget. Municipalities depend on these funds to cover the costs of running our schools, public works and public safety.

If we don’t accomplish this, towns will either have to cut the services they provide or raise taxes on property owners.

A bill submitted by Rep. Peggy Rotundo, D-Lewiston, and Sen. Dawn Hill, D-York, the chairs of the Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee, would prevent further property tax increases for Maine communities and local property taxpayers by protecting $40 million in revenue sharing funds. If the Legislature does not blunt cuts to revenue sharing, funding for towns will decline 79 percent by 2015.

Yesterday, the legislation won initial approval by a vote of 114-21 in the Maine House. The bill faces further votes in the House and Senate.

Helping students pay for college:

Also coming before the Legislature this session are two bills addressing college affordability. Senate President Justin Alfond and Sen. Roger Katz are both sponsoring bills to study the possibility of students attending college for free and later paying back the state with a percentage of their income.

Over the past two decades, the cost of college tuition has skyrocketed. Here in Maine, two-thirds of college students graduate with debt.

Both bills explore the Pay It Forward model, and Sen. Alfond’s bill also explores incentives for degree completion such as tuition that is guaranteed to stay at the same rate for all four years.

If you have any questions regarding any of these bills, or any concerns or thoughts regarding state government, please do not hesitate to contact me.

All the best,

Seth

Cable/Internet Committee Internet Survey

ConnectivityThe Bowdoinham Cable/Internet Committee has designed a survey to get specific information about the current and expected needs of internet service here in Bowdoinham. The plan is to circulate the survey in as many ways as possible so that we may gather a comprehensive and accurate picture of the community’s needs and frustrations.

So, you will find blank surveys in various community sites as well as on line.

The Bowdoinham link is http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/RK86H52 (It’s set up to only allow you to respond to it once, so if you’ve already gone through, it will take you to the end.)