According to a recent study from the Lumina Foundation titled A Strong Nation through Higher Education, 39.9 percent of Maine residents ages 25-64 held at least a two-year degree in 2013. That's on par with the national average of 40 percent, and a huge improvement compared to just a few years ago. As the study shows, only 36.8 percent of Maine adults held a two-year degree in 2008. However, degree attainment peaked at 40 percent in 2011, and the numbers have yet to recover fully.
Part of Maine's struggle with degree attainment is the sheer number of its residents who are still without any type of college education. As the numbers show, 32.6 percent of Maine adults had only a high school diploma in 2013, and another 21.5 percent had some college experience but no degree. Compare that to the percentage of adults with an associate degree (11.1 percent), bachelor's degree (19.1 percent), and graduate or professional degree (9.7 percent), and you'll find that non-degreed residents outnumbered those with degrees in 2013 at a rate of 54.1 percent to 39.9 percent.
Obviously, state officials hope to change these numbers, which is why Maine has made a push to get more adults to go to college. The Maine Department of Education reports that certain initiatives, including proficiency-based education, early college opportunities, and a new accountability and improvement system, are on the way to improve degree attainment and student experiences in the state.
One thing working in their favor is the fact that Maine is home to so many colleges and schools. According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), 44 institutions of higher education currently offer degrees in the state. That list includes an array of traditional, four-year schools in addition to beauty schools, technical schools, and community colleges. Further, some schools listed offer online degrees in Maine in addition to their on-campus programming.
Why Should I Earn a Degree in Maine?
Plenty of opportunities exist for students who pursue on-campus or distance learning in Maine. However, some jobs feature higher pay and higher levels of employment than others. The following chart highlights some of the most prominent and high-paying careers for college graduates in the state:
Number of Workers
|Office and Administrative Support Occupations||92,240||$34,820|
|Sales and Related Occupations||58,710||$33,670|
|Food Preparation and Serving Related Occupations||54,920||$23,440|
|Healthcare Practitioners and Technical Occupations||40,640||$80,170|
|Education, Training, and Library Occupations||39,360||$48,540|
|Transportation and Material Moving Occupations||36,680||$33,600|
|Installation, Maintenance, and Repair Occupations||25,870||$44,460|
|Construction and Extraction Occupations||25,570||$41,160|
|Personal Care and Service Occupations||24,730||$24,580|
|Business and Financial Operations Occupations||23,860||$62,750|
|Building and Grounds Cleaning and Maintenance Occupations||21,060||$28,630|
|Healthcare Support Occupations||20,540||$29,400|
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Maine was home to approximately 1,330,089 people in 2014. The state's major metropolitan region is the Portland, Maine metro area. Other big cities in the state include Lewiston, Bangor, South Portland, and Auburn. With New Hampshire to the west, the Atlantic Ocean to the right, and Canada to the north, Maine is known for its Northeast charm, dense forests, rolling mountains, and scenic waterways.
The Maine Department of Economic and Community Development lists a number of key industries that make up the bulk of the state's economic output. As it stands, those sectors include aerospace and advanced materials, environmental technology, hospitality and tourism, information technology, renewable energy, life sciences, and several others.
Maine's advanced materials and composite sector alone is responsible for 2,200 jobs in the state, which is partly due to the many local schools offering top-notch research facilities. And with 220 biotech and medical products companies located in Maine, the state's life sciences industry is booming. As the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development notes, the state expects faster than usual growth in their drug, pharmaceutical, and medical devices sector during the coming decade due to unprecedented demand.
In addition to industry, Maine offers a diverse selection of large public schools and smaller, community and technical colleges. It all starts with the large, publicly-funded University of Maine system, which boasts campuses in Augusta, Farmington, Fort Kent, Machias, and Presque Isle. Established in 1948, the University of Maine is the state's largest conglomerate of schools. Further, Maine features a large community college system with seven schools dispersed throughout the state's most populated regions. In addition to on-campus offerings, some community colleges offer online education in Maine, either in the form of online degree programs or distance-based certificates.
Speaking of distance education, several top colleges and universities in Maine offer online or hybrid learning options alongside their traditional programs. Popular colleges with online learning initiatives in the state include the University of Maine, the University of Southern Maine, and the University of New England. These programs not only increase access to higher education, but often make it possible for working adults, busy parents, and rural students to go back to school when a traditional degree program just won't work.
Another reason many people choose Maine to start a family is basic affordability. According to U.S. Census Bureau estimates, the median housing value in Maine was just $174,500 through 2013. That's slightly less than the national median housing value of $176,700. Further, good job prospects and a business-friendly environment ensured that only 13.6 of Maine's population lived below the poverty level in 2013. On a national level, that figure is more like 15.4 percent.
But there's more to Maine than just affordable housing, jobs, and schools. Behind its rugged, Northeast exterior, you'll find a surprising mix of cultures, oddities, and attractions. Here are five things about Maine you probably didn't know:
- Love seafood? Maine is famous for it. In fact, Maine harvests more lobster than any other state in the nation.
- If you're a water baby who loves the coast, you'll get more than you bargained for in Maine. Not only does the state have 3,478 miles of coastline, but it also has 3,166 off-shore islands.
- Maine's Acadia National Park is one of the most visited national parks in the nation. Approximately 2 million people enjoy its natural beauty each year. In total, the state has 542,629 acres of state and national parks.
- Maine is a top producer of many wooden and agricultural products including toothpicks, potatoes, and broccoli.
- Maine is bigger than all five other New England states combined, yet shares a border with only one other state, New Hampshire.
What Makes Maine Ideal for Online Education?
In Maine, the highest levels of degree attainment are clustered around cities and metropolitan areas. For example, Cumberland County, which includes the city of Portland, reports that 53.3 percent of its population had a two-year degree or better in 2013. Other counties with high levels of adults with at least a two-year degree include: Sagadahoc (41.98 percent), York (41.68 percent), and Hancock (40.54 percent). If you look at a map, you'll notice each of these areas are either near the coast or home to a higher than average percentage of the state's residents.
According to Christopher Quinn, President of Kaplan University's Maine campuses, online education has the potential to change that. By offering flexible degrees that can be pursued at any time and any place, distance learning in Maine is opening the door to a broader selection of students.
"In Maine, and the other semi-rural New England states, proximity to a campus can be a challenge," says Quinn. "The online environment removes this barrier and eliminates the need to spend unproductive time in a car."
Quinn also notes how online education can lead to a healthier learning environment and more choices for students overall.
"Even if a college or university campus is located nearby, the spectrum of available programs increases when online delivery is an option," he says. "In low population density states like Maine, the aggregation of students across geography allows for program offerings that might otherwise be too specialized for a single community."
Another reason online education is ideal in the state is the fact that Maine schools are fairly affordable in general. According to the College Board, tuition at public, four-year schools in Maine averaged out to $9,573 for in-state students during the 2015-16 school year. Compare that to states nearby, and it's easy to see why a college degree in Maine is such a good deal. For the sake of comparison, here's how much students paid on average for college in neighboring states that year:
- New Hampshire: $15,160
- Vermont: $14,993
- Massachusetts: $11,588
- Connecticut: $11,397
While it's true that tuition in Maine is already inexpensive when compared to neighboring states, online education can take that affordability factor even further, adds Quinn.
"Online programs typically do not have the tremendous cost burden of maintaining a large physical campus such as dormitories, stadiums, and other buildings," he says. Furthermore, the money saved on a physical campus is often redistributed to educational investments that can improve student outcomes. "Without the costly campus infrastructure, online institutions are able to invest more heavily in teaching faculty and direct student support services like on-demand tutoring."
According to Quinn, distance learning in Maine is ideal because it helps the state achieve its ultimate goal: higher levels of degree attainment. At the end of the day, that is good news for both area families and the state's economy.
Top 10 Degrees in Maine
Thanks to the overall health of Maine's economy, a number of jobs for college graduates are expected to see exceptional growth in the coming years. Because of this, certain college degrees and training programs may pay off more than others, both in higher wages and more demand. Here's a list of top college degrees based on these lucrative and promising fields:
Mastering a foreign language is the best way to begin a career as an interpreter or translator. Using their knowledge and business acumen, these workers communicate with individuals and businesses to help them translate their words and materials into other languages. According to data from the U.S. Department of Labor, employment in this field could surge by as much as 42 percent in Maine from 2012 to 2022.
Diagnostic Medical Sonography
Just like many health care fields, diagnostic medical sonography is booming. With this degree, you can begin a career as a diagnostic medical sonographer, a job which is projected to see 35 percent growth in Maine through 2022. High pay also adds to the value of this degree option. As of 2014, diagnostic medical sonographers in Maine earned a mean annual wage of $70,920.
Since tourism is one of Maine's key industries, it's no wonder that majoring in hospitality management could pay off. With this degree, graduates may find work as meeting, convention, or event planners -- a field that's expected to experience 25 percent job growth in Maine from 2012 to 2022. High wages help this degree remain popular with students. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), meeting, convention, and event planners earned a mean annual wage of $43,370 in 2014.
A degree in computer science could lead to a number of careers with exceptional growth predicted in Maine between 2012 and 2022, including information security analyst (23 percent), computer systems analyst (17 percent), or software developer of applications (15 percent).
Businesses of all kinds need experts to help market their products and services, which makes a degree in marketing a particularly good investment. In Maine, demand for market research analysts and marketing specialists is projected to increase 23 percent from 2012 to 2022. These professionals also earned especially high salaries in 2014, with a mean annual wage of $66,380.
Medical and Clinical Laboratory Science
If you want to work as a medical or clinical laboratory technician, earning a degree in medical or clinical laboratory science is your best bet. Professionals in this field conduct an array of complex medical studies and experiments, and earned a mean annual wage of $38,110 in Maine in 2014. Employment in the field is expected to grow by as much as 22 percent in the state through 2022.
Earning a two-year degree in veterinary technology is a great way to start a career in a veterinarian's office. Under the supervision of a licensed veterinarian, these workers provide much of the hands-on care to animals they work with. Job openings in this field are expected to increase by as much as 19 percent in Maine from 2012 to 2022. As of 2014, veterinary technologists and technicians in the state earned a mean annual wage of $32,930.
Occupational Therapy Assistant
A two-year degree in occupational therapy assisting is a popular option for those who want a fast track into a health care career. The U.S. Department of Labor projects that employment of occupational therapy assistants will increase 19 percent in Maine from 2012 to 2022. In 2014, these professionals earned a mean annual wage of $47,510.
Students who study actuarial science can use their degree and technical skills to find work as an actuary. These professionals use complex equations and data analysis to make accurate mathematical and financial predictions for a wide range of industries. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, employment of actuaries is expected to rise 18 percent in Maine through 2022.
Dental hygienists provide valuable services to both dentists and customers seeking dental care. Due to the growing demand for dental work and maintenance, job openings in this field could increase by as much as 18 percent in Maine from 2012 to 2022. In addition to above average demand, this degree and career path could lead to high pay, too. As of 2014, dental hygienists earned a mean annual wage of $65,540 in the state.
Top Cities for Maine College Students
With 66,666 residents in 2014, Portland was Maine's largest city. Also known for its picturesque Old Port district, funky Arts district, and goldmine of scenic waterways and shorelines, Portland has more restaurants per capita than any other city in the state.
The city's economy depends heavily on fishing, manufacturing, financial services, and communications, and large corporations with headquarters in the area include Bank of America, Key Bank, Magellan Petroleum, and Pioneer Telephone, among others.
Portland is also known for its dedication to higher learning, and it shows. As of 2013, 44.8 percent of Portland adults possessed a bachelor's degree or better. Four institutions of higher education sit within city limits, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. Here are a few of the most prominent schools:
Maine College of Art
With 459 students and a student-to-faculty ratio of just 10:1 in 2014, the Maine College of Art is focused on letting students learn in a creative, yet intimate, environment. Tuition and fees for the 2014-15 school year averaged out to around $31,670, and the school is known for these top programs:
- Bachelor of Fine Arts in Ceramics
- Bachelor of Fine Arts in Digital Media
- Bachelor of Fine Arts in Fashion Design
University of Southern Maine
The University of Southern Maine boasted a student enrollment of 8,428 in 2014. Tuition and fees cost in-state students only $7,796 for the 2014-15 school year. In addition to its on-campus programs, the University of Southern Maine offers a number of online degree programs for both undergraduate and graduate students. Here are a few programs the school is known for:
- Online Bachelor of Arts in Social and Behavioral Sciences
- Online Bachelor of Science in Applied Technical Leadership
- Bachelor of Science in Biology
Institute for Doctoral Studies in Visual Arts
Graduate students interested in earning a terminal degree in visual arts turn to IDSVA for its small class sizes and top degree programs. As the NCES notes, enrollment included approximately 52 students in 2014. As a private school, IDSVA charged $29,000 for tuition during the 2014-15 school year. They offer the following program:
- Ph.D. in Art Theory and Philosophy
As Maine's second-largest city, Lewiston was home to a population of 36,299 in 2014. Part of the Lewiston-Auburn metropolitan area, Lewiston contains two institutions of higher education, two large regional hospitals, and a number of distinct neighborhoods that epitomize rural Northeast culture and charm.
Top industries in the area include health care, distribution, food production, and news media. As far as large employers, Lewiston boasts the Central Maine Medical Center, St. Mary's Health System, and TD Bank, among others.
Only 15.4 percent of Lewiston residents had a bachelor's degree in 2014, yet 85.6 percent held a high school diploma. Prominent schools in the area include:
Bates College is a four-year, private institution that offers degrees and certificate programs in a wide range of popular career fields. Approximately 1,773 students were enrolled in 2014, a year when average tuition and fees came in at $47,030. A few of their popular programs are:
- Bachelor of Science in Biology
- Bachelor of Arts in Art & Visual Culture
- Bachelor of Science in Economics
Maine College of Health Professions
Maine College of Health Professions offers two-year degrees in popular health care professions. As of 2014, the student population included 210 individuals, and tuition and fees averaged out to $9,890. Small class sizes and a student-to-faculty ratio of 6:1 ensured top-notch instruction with plenty of personal attention. Degrees offered include:
- Associate of Applied Science in Nursing
- Associate of Applied Science in Radiologic Technology
- Associate of Applied Science in Nuclear Medicine Technology
- Certificate in Computed Tomography
Maine's third most populous city, Bangor contained 32,568 residents in 2014. It is the county seat of Penobscot County and part of the principal city of the Bangor metropolitan area, yet still maintains a semblance of small town charm.
Bangor area residents have a passion for the arts, and plenty of pride in their many museums, libraries, and performing arts venues. The fact that Bangor is such an affordable place to live also pulls in young families and students in droves. As of 2013, the median housing value in the city was only $145,400.
The NCES lists five institutions of higher education as active in the Bangor area. Here are the three most prominent:
Beal College is a two-year institution that offers associate degrees in plenty of popular career fields. Approximately 429 students were enrolled in 2014, and tuition and fees averaged out to $16,026 that year. Their popular programs include:
- Associate Degree in Accounting
- Associate Degree in Health Information Management
- Associate Degree in Medical Assisting
Eastern Maine Community College
Eastern Maine Community College features affordable tuition and one of the state's largest two-year student populations. As of 2014, enrollment included 2,613 individuals, yet tuition and fees were just $3,810 for in-state students. The school is known for the following programs of study:
- Associate of Applied Science in Computer Systems Technology
- Associate of Science in Civil Engineering Technology
- Certificate in Small Business Development
Husson University is a private, four-year school that had an enrollment of 3,415 students in 2014. Tuition and fees averaged out to $16,097 that year, and students could pick from dozens of on-campus and online degree programs. Here are a few of their most popular options:
- Online Bachelor of Science in Business Administration
- Online Bachelor of Science in Software Development
- Online RN to Bachelor of Science in Nursing
Scholarships and Financial Aid
Students looking into pursuing a degree in Maine should explore all of their options when it comes to federal, state, and private student aid. Types of federal aid can include, but are not limited to: Pell Grants, Federal Supplemental Education Opportunity Grants, Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education Grants, and Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grants.
The Finance Authority of Maine also lists state-based aid opportunities on their website. These programs are typically offered based on merit, income, or other criteria. Some options available to Maine residents include:
- Educators for Maine Program
- John R. Justice Grant Program
- State of Maine Grant Program
- Tuition Waiver Program (Foster Care)
- Tuition Waiver Program (Public Servant)
In addition to traditional aid, Maine institutions also offer a number of loan repayment programs that can ease the burden of borrowing for school. Students seeking on-campus or online degrees in Maine should check with their school's financial aid office to inquire about any additional aid options.
A Stronger Nation through Higher Education, Lumina Foundation, Maine, http://strongernation.luminafoundation.org/report/#maine
About the System, Maine's Public Universities, http://www.maine.edu/about-the-system/
City of Bangor, Maine, Official Website, http://www.bangormaine.gov/
College Navigator, National Center for Education Statistics, Maine, https://nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator/?s=ME
Fastest-Growing Occupations, CareerOneStop, Maine, http://acinet.org/oview1.asp?next=oview1&Level=Overall&optstatus=&jobfam=&id=1&nodeid=3&soccode=&stfips=23&ShowAll=
Innovation and Initiatives, Maine Department of Education, http://maine.gov/doe/inside/innovation.html
Key Industry Sectors in Maine, Invest in Maine, http://www.investinmaine.net/industries/
Lewiston, Maine Official Website, http://www.ci.lewiston.me.us/
Maine Community College System, http://www.mccs.me.edu/
Maine Fun Facts and Pine Tree State Trivia, Visit Maine, http://www.visitmaine.net/page/47/fun-facts
Maine Grants and Loan Programs, Finance Authority of Maine, http://www.famemaine.com/education/topics/paying-for-college/maine-grants-loan-programs/
May 2014 State Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Maine, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_me.htm
Portland, Maine Official Website, http://www.portlandmaine.gov/
State & County QuickFacts, U.S. Census Bureau, Bangor, http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/23/2302795.html
State & County QuickFacts, U.S. Census Bureau, Maine, http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/23000.html
State & County QuickFacts, U.S. Census Bureau, Lewiston, http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/23/2338740.html
State & County Quickfacts, U.S. Census Bureau, Portland, http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/23/2360545.html
Tuition and Fees by Sector and State Over Time, College Board, http://trends.collegeboard.org/college-pricing/figures-tables/tuition-and-fees-sector-and-state-over-time-1