The Gift and Investment of a Good Education

April 7, 2023

Going to college can open the door to better opportunity. Opportunities like a stable living that can support a family, but education can also be expensive.

Not everyone wants to go to college, but anyone who dreams of getting a degree or a certificate on the path to a good-paying job should have the chance to earn one. We in Maine are making that possible thanks to our free community college initiative and historic federal investments in education made by the Biden-Harris Administration.

Hello, this is Governor Janet Mills and thank you for listening.

Although I wasn't able to join them in person this week--being quarantined with COVID for a short time--I was nonetheless thrilled to lay out the welcome mat to welcome First Lady Dr. Jill Biden and U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona to Southern Maine Community College in South Portland. The First Lady, as you know, teaches at the Community College in Northern Virginia. We welcomed her and Secretary Cardona here to highlight our free community college initiative which is creating rewarding career opportunities for Maine students.

That initiative, which I proposed, and the Legislature passed in 2022, made community college free for high school students whose education was disrupted by the pandemic. 

Students like Maya Eichorn from York who struggled to finish high school and is now continuing her education, thanks to the free community college initiative. She said that if it weren't for the free community college program she would be "aimlessly moving through life."

Students also like Graca Muzela, Washington County Community College's 2022 Student of the Year, who can now afford his second year of school to become an electrical engineer.

And students like Thomas Golden from Biddeford who told the First Lady and Secretary Cardona he's happy to begin his career in manufacturing after he graduates from Southern Maine Community College debt free.

In the first year of the free community college initiative, enrollment at Maine's community college system increased by a record 12 percent. Thousands more young people in Maine are now getting a high-quality education at little or no cost that will allow them to take good-paying jobs in rewarding careers, or even starting their own business. Careers like health care, clean energy, manufacturing, hospitality, early childhood education, computer technology, and of course, the trades.

We often talk about the "gift of a good education," but providing a good education is not simply a gift -- it is also making the greatest investment in the next generation of workers, and in the employers waiting to hire them, and in our economy which will be run by them.

In my budget, I have proposed continuing this worthwhile investment in our students and in our economy by including the high school graduating classes of 2024 and 2025. I hope the legislature will agree with this proposal. I will continue to do all I can to make education more affordable.

I am grateful to the First Lady, Jill Biden, and to Secretary Cardona for visiting with students to learn more about our free college initiative here in Maine and I look forward to working with them to provide more pathways to education and to good-paying jobs for Maine people. When we invest in our greatest asset -- Maine people -- we build a stronger, more prosperous state.

This is Governor Janet Mills and I want to thank all of you for your get well wishes this week. I have tested negative for COVID now and am feeling just fine and am back on the job, full-time. And thank you for listening this weekend and Happy Passover, Ramadan, Easter to all of those who celebrate these significant religious events, have a great weekend.