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TO:                  Superintendents of Schools and Principals


FROM:            J. Duke Albanese, Commissioner


DATE:             May 4, 2001


RE:                  George J. Mitchell Scholarship Research Institute

Statewide Investigation of Post-Secondary Education in Maine



            In recognition of the disparity between Maine’s high rate of high school graduation and its lower rate of advancement to post-secondary education, the Senator George J. Mitchell Scholarship Research Institute has commissioned a statewide research effort to investigate why more of Maine’s high school students do not go on to college.


            The Mitchell Institute has retained Critical Insights, Maine’s largest market research firm, to investigate and identify the practical and perceived barriers that prevent Maine students from obtaining college and post-secondary degrees.  The research effort will also focus on investigating why Maine has a relatively low percentage of high school students who aspire to or intend to pursue higher education.


            The research effort by Critical Insights and the Mitchell Institute will be the most comprehensive examination ever of Maine people’s attitudes toward higher education and will include several components.  It will involve moderated discussion groups with students, as well as statewide surveys of educators, parents, current students, and recent high school graduates.  The study will provide Maine with concrete recommendations and strategies to help increase student matriculation beyond high school.


            The importance of this research cannot be overstated.  Governor Angus S. King, Jr. commented regarding the study, "The future of Maine's economy will depend on increasing the number of people in Maine who have college and post-secondary degrees.  This study should help policy makers understand and better address the complex issue of why the number of Maine kids who go on to college or technical schools is lower than in other states. 

            In the event that your school is contacted in a random sampling procedure for either the student discussion groups or the educator survey, I would like to urge you to cooperate with the Mitchell Institute and their research partner, Critical Insights.  Let me assure you that all responses from the research will be kept confidential and individual students or educators will not in any way be associated with the answers provided in these inquiries.  Critical Insights’ research professionals will be available to answer any questions that you might have, and will be present at the school in the event that discussion groups are conducted on-site.


            Maine’s Department of Education is pleased to support this important research project.  We hope you share our enthusiasm for collaborating on this project, and know that by participating you can have a significant impact on increasing the number of Maine’s students who go on to higher education. 


Please contact the Mitchell Institute directly with any questions at (207) 773-7700.