A nationwide discussion continues to evolve around changing perceptions about the role of higher education. Fewer high school students applied to attend college during the pandemic. This amplified a prior national trend called “the enrollment cliff,” whereby 1 million fewer U.S. students decided to enroll in college since 2019.

The Maine Maritime Academy training ship the State of Maine returns to Castine last June after an international trip. “Maine Maritime Academy students commonly earn between three and four times the entry-level compensation of those from other colleges around the country,” President Jerry Paul notes. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer, File

The Portland Press Herald editorialized last year on the trend of would-be college attendees in America were changing their decision-making calculus. This is true. As students rethink the need for a college degree, however, it is important to keep in mind some irrefutable truths.

A report released last year by the National Center for Education Statistics confirmed the benefits of college education, concluding that individuals with a degree continue to enjoy both better employment prospects and greater annual earnings. Even during the pandemic, the employment rate of people aged between 25 and 34 was higher for those with greater levels of education. The median earnings of people with a bachelor’s degree were more than double the earnings of those whose highest educational level was the completion of high school.

These earnings also translate into more resources to support the quality of life, including health care and education, for the children of college graduates and provides resources for funding programs and services to peoples far beyond the graduate’s own family. Ben Franklin reminded us long ago “an investment in knowledge pays the best interest.” That is still true today.

Our governor and Legislature here in Maine are right to have invested in higher education. They should be applauded for this.

Maine’s flagship university, the University of Maine, along with its satellite campuses is a premier research institution that improves the quality of life for many Mainers. Its research capabilities solve problems facing us all from agricultural sciences that help our farmers to advances in medical research that improve our health care. Maine’s community college system is admired by many for its diverse offerings to students and its leadership on emerging opportunities for the state.


Can college be expensive? Yes, inflation and other factors have made all products and services cost more. Colleges must continually seek ways to bring down that cost.

But in many instances, the return far exceeds the cost. Maine can be proud to host the college ranked No. 1 in America among public bachelor’s degree institutions for return on investment for low-income students by Georgetown University. Read that again. Maine has the top college in the nation for this category. Maine Maritime Academy is proud to be that college – demonstrating that, yes, it’s worth it.

Maine Maritime Academy students commonly earn between three and four times the entry-level compensation of those from other colleges around the country. They can afford the rising costs of housing so they can continue to raise their families here in Maine and contribute to Maine’s economy. This pays off. It is worth it to students. It is worth it to our state.

Of course, college education is not something one solely “buys.” The education of the human mind takes effort, work, sacrifice and discipline. It is a team approach with the student, the college and the parents. What can be bought is the opportunity to be immersed in an environment that facilitates learning in vast ways.

As colleges, however, we must constantly adapt the opportunities to our students and their desires. Along with other colleges in Maine, we are in a process of continuously assessing the priorities of new students and the evolving professional marketplace. As a newly installed first-time college president, I see this as an important goal going forward.

I look forward to continuing this dialogue about the future of higher education in Maine with our lawmakers, our students, our fellow colleges and our citizens.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.