Question 4 on the Nov. 6 ballot would provide $49 million for the University of Maine System, sharing the wealth among all seven of the state’s universities. In Hancock County, the bond would fund a Bachelor of Science in nursing degree program offered through the Mill Mall site of the University of Maine at Augusta.
Half of Hancock County’s nurses will be retirement-eligible in 10 years. As the ranks of baby boomers swell, the demand for nurses will increase. The timing of the university system’s action plan to double enrollment in nursing education and expand rural nursing programs could not be better. And the $12 million that Question 4 would channel to nursing education could not be better invested. Keeping nursing education affordable would be another boon from the bond.
The bond would fund other projects, including the consolidation of enrollment, advising and financial aid at the University of Maine at Augusta (UMA). Let us pause for a moment of UMA appreciation. This is the university entity that works with an extraordinarily motivated population: nontraditional, older students at its main campus, online and throughout its satellite locations, including the Mill Mall campus. These students with life experience who, in many cases, are returning to school to finish degrees or gain new skills. Often they have full-time jobs, families and children. But in spite of — or because of — their life circumstances, they make the effort to do better, to improve their job outlook and find careers that are personally as well as financially rewarding. Helping them succeed is a key part of supporting the workforce and planning for Maine’s future.