Bridge Year education program highlighted in Hermon

The following is a news release from the Office of Gov. Paul LePage.

HERMON – Governor Paul LePage helped kick-off a new program Monday evening that will allow students to attain both their high school diploma and an associate’s degree in five years.

“Before I came into office, I said I wanted to see Maine offer its students a five-year high school opportunity,” Governor LePage said. “What we found was that Maine has a number of excellent programs that allow students to take college courses, but few complete packages like this, which will allow students to move seamlessly into a degree program.”

The Governor spoke at the Bridge Year Program event at Hermon High School, a direct outgrowth of his call for five-year high school programs. The program is a collaboration that includes: the United Technologies Center (UTC), a career and technical education school in Bangor; Eastern Maine Community College (EMMC); and the University of Maine, Orono.

“This initiative is a shining example of educators putting what is best for the student first and I commend everyone involved,” Governor LePage said. “When our education leaders think outside-the-box, we can create great opportunities for our students.”

Maine Education Commissioner Stephen Bowen attended the event and shared his thoughts about the collaborative effort. “What’s remarkable here is that we have four institutions that have been at the table since the beginning, working together, and reducing and removing barriers. The community college is offering credits at a greatly reduced cost and waiving fees,” said Bowen.

Through the program, 16 students in the first year will earn credits equivalent to about a year of college during their junior and senior years of high school. They will then enter EMCC and graduate with an associate’s degree in applied science within a year – saving them the time and money that is normally required.

The University of Maine has agreed to accept transfer of all credits earned through the program for students who are interested in attaining a four-year degree after the community college. UTC and Hermon are working closely together on the coursework.

Several other high schools that feed UTC are interested in establishing similar programs.

“The research in Maine and across the country shows that high school students who take college level courses while in high school are more likely to graduate high school, more likely to enter college, and more likely to complete college,” Bowen said. “This goes a step further, mapping out a complete program, with college and career guidance, and a path that gets students to a degree and prepared for later success.”

As part of Governor LePage’s education agenda he established a task force to examine early college programs last year and that task force issued a report in January 2012 (http://www.maine.gov/doe/earlycollege/). The group has continued its work, with three working groups now addressing best practices, policy barriers and funding issues.

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