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Commission eyes ways to make college more affordable for Maine students

Virus Outbreak Maine
Robert F. Bukaty
AP file
The Bowdoin College campus is nearly empty during spring break, Wednesday, March 11, 2020, in Brunswick, Maine.

Educators say offering college-level courses in high school can help attract students to degree programs after they graduate and can make those degrees more affordable to complete. That's according to Maine's Commission to Study College Affordability and Completion, which held a virtual meeting on Wednesday.

"That early college is a lever, good thing to explore for nontraditional student, for whom that credit and time and confidence can move them toward completion, because it cuts down the amount of credits you're paying for," says commission member Colleen Quint, president and CEO of the Alfond Scholarship Foundation.

"Our students are not just straight from high school, they are adults with complicated lives, so we are trying to provide them with education in manageable bites," says Janet Sotor of the Maine Community College System.

Officials with the community college system say they also help students find high tech equipment and are hoping to move toward the use of open source materials instead of costly textbooks.

Maine's community college system has 16,000 students in degree programs, and its tuition is the lowest in New England. The University of Maine has frozen its tuition seven times since 2012 as one way to help students afford school. And the state has appropriated more than $26 million to the Maine State Grant program, which helps the state's neediest students.