Plan requires high schoolers to apply to college to get diploma
AUGUSTA, Maine --A state law encouraging high school seniors to continue their education by completing at least one postsecondary school application took effect last month, but Maine's top education official is looking to take the approach a step further.
Education Commissioner Susan Gendron proposes a requirement that seniors apply to college before becoming eligible for a diploma. The change in state rules on graduation requirements would require approval by the Legislature.
If enacted during the upcoming session, the change would affect the class of 2009, but Gendron is urging high schools to voluntarily make the change during the current school year.
The idea is to raise the number of Maine youths going to college and promote educational opportunities for all students.
While 85 percent of high school seniors say they intend to enroll in college, far fewer actually do, Gendron said. She cited Maine Compact for Higher Education statistics showing that only 50 percent attend college in the fall after their graduation.
"Everybody's college material," said David Connerty-Marin, spokesman for the Department of Education. "Every student has to be college material. If they don't end up going to college, they still need to be college material, because the skills for success in the work force need to be the same."
Not all educators are fully embracing the idea.
"I'm not sure we should be encouraging students to apply to college who don't intend to go. That's really not appropriate of the college admissions process," said Lewiston High School Principal Gus LeBlanc. "I understand what she's trying to get at," boosting aspirations. "I agree with that. We're doing that."
The law encouraging postsecondary school applications was based on a resolve from House Speaker Glenn Cummings. He got the idea from Poland High School, the first in Maine to make applying to college part of its requirements.
Poland Principal Bill Doughty agrees with taking his school's idea statewide, but says college should be defined broadly to include two- and four-year colleges, and also career schools such as cosmetology.
"Some kind of higher education for these kids graduating is really necessary," Doughty said.