University of Maine System Chancellor Joseph W. Westphal on Thursday issued the following statement in response to several topics and themes contained in Governor John E. Baldaccis inaugural address. For more information, please contact John Diamond at 973-3224
Governor Baldaccis inaugural address was an impressive combination of vision, leadership, and practicality. Clearly, he expects new levels of cooperation and collaboration to address the complex issues facing our state. He let all of Maine know that dealing with the states current and future needs requires belt tightening, creativity, and strategic investment.
I applaud his commitment to increasing state investment in research and development. He knows first-hand that university-based research creates new jobs, new industries, and new opportunities. He also knows that Maine receives, on average, four federal dollars in grants and contracts for every one dollar that the state provides for university-based research.
Along with the Governor, I continue to believe that it makes sense for Maine to develop a true community college system. We have been working with the Technical College System to discuss ways to collaborate to help make this concept a reality. As Governor Baldacci noted Wednesday night, the University System and Maines K-12 community must be involved in the process to ensure that the Governors proposal produces the desired results.
I also agree strongly that Maine must find ways to encourage more of its young people to stay in Maine for postsecondary education and for employment, community involvement, and for their personal aspirations. We also need to work harder as a state to lure back Mainers who have moved away. That involves many factors, one of which must be high quality, affordable, and accessible universities and colleges. Using the Governors anecdote, if we want to discourage our young people from moving out of state with a U-Haul loaded with [their] furniture, Maine must provide them with greater support, encouragement, and incentives to seek their education and livelihood right here at home.
I agree with the Governor that the exodus from Maine of our younger residents is one of the most serious and detrimental problems facing our state. This problem can be addressed most effectively through attractive employment and career opportunities and the innovation and entrepreneurism that create such opportunities, both for those individuals currently in Maine as well as for those whom we want to return or attract to the state. More than any other entity, universities can positively influence those outcomes.
Established in 1968, the University of Maine System consists of seven universities, 10 University College outreach centers, and more than 100 distance-learning sites located throughout the state. The University System awards more than 4,600 university degrees annually. It currently enrolls more than 34,000 students statewide.