Your recent article on composites programs (“New Hampshire college luring students from southern Maine with composites-making classes,” Feb. 11) unfairly compares a six-month certificate at New Hampshire’s Great Bay Community College with Southern Maine Community College’s two-year associate degree in composite science and manufacturing.

The article implies that students are being lured away from SMCC’s composites program, but it provides no evidence of this other than to note that the New Hampshire program offers in-state tuition to Maine students (at $200 per credit hour). It fails to note that tuition for Maine residents in any SMCC program is $90 per credit hour.

The article also fails to mention that Great Bay’s pilot program has been made possible by millions in grant aid from the U.S. Department of Labor and the state of New Hampshire.

Like Great Bay’s program, SMCC’s composites program was initially grant-funded, and it included support for research and testing for industry. That generous support – and SMCC’s own investment of over $1 million – made it possible for the college to build a robust composites degree program in partnership with industry leaders. That program continues.

However, as SMCC assumes the full cost of operations, we’re moving away from research and focusing on the program’s core mission: to prepare students to serve as skilled composites technicians and meet the changing workforce needs of dozens of employers in a variety of key Maine industries, among them boat-building, construction and advanced manufacturing. This focus is fundamentally different from the pilot program in New Hampshire, which is designed to serve just one employer.

For 70 years, SMCC’s faculty have partnered with industry to deliver relevant curricula using first-rate equipment and facilities. Working with employers across the state, the college will continue to provide this same quality education in composites manufacturing. Whether employers need full degree programs or short-term, customized training, SMCC delivers.

Ron Cantor

president, Southern Maine Community College

South Portland

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