In June 2013, the Mitchell Institute surveyed Maine high school principals and guidance counselors about student aspirations. We received 155 survey responses from 108 high schools—84% of Maine’s 129 public high schools–and 16 Career and Technical Education (CTE) Centers—representing 50% of Maine’s 28 CTEs. Key findings include:
- Maine educators report that their communities encourage and value college education, but there is significant regional variation.
89% agree (including 31% that strongly agree) that a college education is valued in their school’s community. Agreement ranges from 75% in Hancock County to 100% in Cumberland County and Midcoast Maine.
88% agree (38% strongly agree) that their school’s community encourages young people to consider going to college. Agreement ranges from 71% in Western Maine to 100% in Cumberland, Midcoast, and Washington County.
- Agreement that there are better jobs within the community for young people with college degrees ranges from 25% in Hancock County to 94% in Cumberland County.College-going graduates are perceived as less likely than peers to stay in the local area.
While 75% of educators agree that there are better jobs in their community for people with college degrees than for those with only a high school education, 84% believe their graduates who do not go to college are more likely to stay in the local area after high school than are peers who go to college.
- Many educators believe that communities should address aspirations earlier.
While more than three-quarters (77%) say that either elementary or middle grades is the ideal time to begin addressing college aspirations, only about one-half (49%) say their communities actually start addressing college aspirations before high school.
- Exposure to college campuses and job-shadowing are the top two experiences educators wish they could provide more for students. When asked for ‘blue-sky’ thinking about effective actions to encourage aspirations, many educators also expressed a need for more guidance staff, financial aid counseling and application assistance, and better college-prep curricula in high school.
- Educators prioritize four main factors in college preparation as follows: 1) Academic preparation; 2) Character traits; 3) Family support; 4) Financial literacy
- College completion rates are overestimated by educators. On average, educators predict that 55% of their graduates will complete a college degree within six years. For all Maine high school graduates in 2006, the actual six-year college completion rate was 37%.
- 96% of respondents are interested in having Mitchell Scholars return to their schools to meet with students.
Our survey results suggest that, to better support Maine students’ aspirations, we need to:
• More clearly demonstrate the connections between postsecondary education and the labor market both at home and beyond, and
• Start earlier to help students shape their plans for the future.