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Thursday February 20, 2020
Posted: Sep 15, 2015

Crossing the college finish line to close the skilled workers gap

College Connection

America is facing a shortage of college graduates. That notion probably doesn’t seem all that plausible to college grads who are underemployed or unemployed, yet the shortage is real.

The U.S. can expect a shortfall of 11 million skilled workers over the next 10 years, according to a recent study by Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce.

The idea of a shortage of college graduates seems even less plausible when one considers that post-secondary enrollment in the U.S. has increased more than 50 percent during the last 25 years. How can we have such a shortage of graduates when overall post-secondary enrollment has been so strongly on the rise?

It turns out the answer is simple. Not enough students are finishing their post-secondary degree. More than 36 million working age Americans have gone to college and departed without earning a degree.

Here in Maine we have more than 230,000 adults who have earned some college credit, but dropped their studies before completing a degree. Helping Maine adults with some college credit cross the college finish line ends up helping us all. College graduates are much more likely to earn higher incomes, which helps lift families and communities. College graduates also bring training and skills into the workforce that helps our economy stay competitive and grow.

The University of Maine System has launched several initiatives designed to help adult students overcome challenges they might face upon returning to college to finish their degree. One initiative of note is the Adult Degree Completion Scholarship fund that has been established to help ease the financial challenge that comes with pursuing academic studies. These scholarships are easy to apply for, and can provide up to $4,000 per year to adult students who have been away from college for three years or more and are working toward their first bachelor’s degree. Another initiative has established helpful “concierges” at each of the university campuses in order to provide one-on-one guidance for returning adult students.

Returning to the college path is seldom a simple proposition. Finding the time and money to return to college, while also balancing family and work priorities, can make a return seem daunting. When one adds the numerous admissions and enrollment steps that must be taken, the complexity of the proposition grows further still. The concierge serves as a helpful, single point of contact that can walk returning students through each admission and enrollment step, and along the way de-mystify any requirements, forms and deadlines the student must contend with.

I serve as an officially designated adult student concierge on UMA’s Augusta campus. However, at UMA we designated concierges are just a small part of a larger enrollment services team with decades of experience expertly meeting the needs of returning adult students. This is because since the doors to UMA opened in 1965, UMA has excelled at serving the needs of a student population largely made up of adult and returning adult students.

Regardless of which university campus one considers, there has never been a better set of student services and financial resources available to help Maine’s returning adult students cross the college degree finish line.



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