As the flagship campus of the University of Maine System, UMaine is the hotspot for technological innovation in Maine’s education community. Consider your nationally recognized programs: an internationally known engineering program and the revolutionary VolturnUS wind turbine project just to name a couple. With such a large reputation, it is no wonder UMaine is such a prominent economic magnet for the state of Maine. Now imagine a situation where this innovation is endangered. Scary, right? Well that is what is going to happen if bond issue number 2 is not passed on November 5th. Yes on 2 would provide $15.5 million to “upgrade and improve existing labs and classrooms [for STEM programs] on the seven campuses” of the University of Maine System. The positive aspects of this bond passage would be plentiful: keeping jobs in Maine, providing enhanced opportunities for Maine students, and emphasizing the role of STEM programs, programs that are essential to Maine’s future in a competitive job market.

Opponents of this bond will say the state cannot afford to pass bonds left and right, as they are basically loans with interest. My response to that is Maine simply can’t afford to not pass this bond. It is an investment in our future, on behalf of the Maine people, for the economic well being of the state. If we can attract out of state students into our STEM programs, and at the same time retain students who might otherwise leave the state for more advanced STEM programs, the economy of Maine can only benefit as a result.

I won’t lie or try to sugarcoat the truth: it is no secret Maine is hurting right now. We face a drastic “demographic winter,” (insufficient growth in the number of 18-24 year olds in the state), that will significantly affect higher education enrollment in the next 10-15 years. Fewer and fewer students are expected to graduate from Maine high schools every year, that number reaching only 12,000 students within the next couple years. Enrollment in the University of Maine System is gradually declining; present numbers indicate only 30,000 students enrolled across the seven campuses. Our classrooms and physical plants are way past their effective operational lifespan, some dating back to the 1970’s. Prospects are bleak, the situation is grim. However, we can turn that around. We can invest now in the programs of the future in order to better meet the needs of the state down the line. Science, technology, engineering, and math. Whether you like it or not, those are the programs that will come to define the job market of the future. We need to prepare now! $15.5 million might seem like a lot, but it is nothing compared to what the state would be losing out on if we don’t upgrade and improve our abilities to teach those subjects.

In conclusion, I cannot underestimate the importance of this bond issue. We as a country are moving in a direction that requires proficiency in advanced fields like STEM programs. Maine must keep up. It is essential, plain and simple. You can do your part. In a sense, we are all trustees of the University of Maine System, so please vote Yes on Question 2 on Tuesday, and invest in Maine’s future. We can’t afford not to.

Tyler Hadyniak is a Junior at University of Maine Farmington (UMF). He is majoring in Political Science and his minor is American History. He is a member of the University of Maine Board of Trustee's serving a two year term. The Board of Trustee's oversee all seven University's in Maine.