MMA earns high marks

CASTINE — Using newly released federal data in an effort to calculate return on investment for thousands of colleges across the country, researchers from Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce tried to answer that question. Last month, they released the results of their study, searchable and sortable online, ranking some 4,500 schools.

In some respects, the study came up with a list of the usual suspects. In the top 10 in terms of long-term economic return were Harvard University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Stanford University in California — all three private universities. Only two public schools made the top 10, both maritime academies.

In sixth place, just behind MIT and Stanford and ahead of Harvard, was Maine Maritime Academy. The U.S. Merchant Marine Academy at Kings Point, N.Y., held down 10th place.

The three top institutions were schools of pharmacy.

According to MMA President William J. Brennan, the academy offers a “narrowly focused” career education with a heavy concentration in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) courses.

“The report validated our mission,” Brennan said. “It’s very edifying.”

According to Brennan, the annual cost for an in-state student pursuing a Coast Guard license as a deck or engineering officer at MMA is $39,162, almost $160,000 over the four-year program. About 88 percent of students receive some form of student aid.

MMA regularly places at least 90 percent of graduates in their chosen career fields within 90 days, Brennan said, and many of those jobs pay well.

According to Brennan the default rate on student loans to MMA graduates is just 2 percent compared with the national average of more than 10 percent. What’s more, MMA graduates typically pay off their student loans in just six years.

Brennan attributes MMA’s success, in large part, to being an “evolving institution” that has changed from its original narrow focus of training merchant marine officers in a quasi-military environment. Now, about 40 percent of the student body is “non-regimental,” pursuing studies outside the traditional licensing curriculum.

While credit for MMA’s success goes to a strong faculty, administration and staff, Brennan said, “part of the reason we’re successful is the kids are driven to succeed. They’re here with a mission. They’re not here by accident.”

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