This cultural problem needs resolution

By Jan Dolcater | Oct 17, 2019

A problem that has existed for far too long is one where people look down with disdain on individuals who work with their hands. This problem began in the ’60s and ’70s when it was said that for young people to get ahead and do well, they must go to college and get a degree. This was perhaps true in that time, but with the skyrocketing costs of college today, this situation deserves a serious review.

Let us examine the situation as it exists today in Maine with regard to tuition, room and board, books and supplies, as well as personal needs. At the University of Maine, an in-state student pays about $25,654 in tuition, fees, room and board, books and personal expense. At Husson University, regardless of residency, that number climbs to about $31,700. At Thomas College, it jumps to about $41,230.

These costs are certainly significant; however, when you consider the costs of more elite schools they appear mild. For instance total costs of Bates, Bowdoin and Colby are about $73,500, $71,200 and $72,000, respectively.

Another factor to consider is the average percentage rate of graduation. This is not favorably impressive for the following three colleges: UMaine, 58%; Husson, 42.5%; Thomas, 42.6%.

However, the elite colleges in Maine have graduation percentage rates much higher: Bates, 88.5%; Bowdoin, 93%; and Colby, 90.5%.

Regardless of the strata of schools listed, the financial load a student incurs is exceptionally burdensome. When accumulated student debt is added into the equation, it makes the ability of young people to marry, build a home and start a family almost impossible.

Likewise, the individual who does not finish more than a year or two is also faced with a heavy debt. With only limited potential to service the obligations, these dropouts have little more than a menial job to repay the debt. Six years after graduation, the average UMaine graduate has an average salary of $36,700, and after 10 years only $46,700.

Consider the following information that I received from the Mid-Coast School of Technology in Rockland regarding the income potential for hands-on trades. Machinists are in very strong demand and within a short time after graduation can earn salaries of $50,000 or more annually. Welding is another major skill offered by MCST and now has 14 areas for training. Job opportunities for this trade are available at $20 to $25 per hour or $41,800 to $50,000 per year. Still another trade available is graphic arts. If a young person completes this program and continues for two years of community college, the potential salary ranges are between $40,000 and $100,000, predicated on their level of skill. The Mid-Coast School of Technology offers training in 17 areas for individuals to choose from.

MCST has excellent training in plumbing, electrical and carpentry. The state of Maine average figures for these trades are as follows: average plumber, $50,000; master plumber, $100,000; average electrician, $64,900; average carpenter, $45,355.

When you consider the potential earning power of these trades, available at Mid-Coast School of Technology and offered to students of our local high schools, as compared to the potential income of a four-year graduate of college, it merits a long, hard look as to where the best options are available. It is important to consider that these are available without incurring the heavy debt burden of tuition and other college expenses.

Currently there are approximately 300 high school students from Knox County taking advantage of this excellent opportunity. Additionally, 500 adults utilize the training in this wide assortment of trades. I encourage each of you to give serious consideration to this option for your own future, or that of a family member or a friend.

Another View is a Maine Press Association award-winning column written by Midcoast conservative residents/writers Jan Dolcater, Ken Frederic, Paul Ackerman, Ralph “Doc” Wallace and Dale Landrith Sr.

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Comments (6)
Posted by: Seth Thayer | Oct 22, 2019 06:01

What the authors fail to mention is that for qualified students whose families earn less than $150,000 a year, the tuition at Colby is capped at $15,000.  For qualified students whose family earns $50,000 or less, the tuition is $0.

Posted by: Seth Thayer | Oct 22, 2019 06:01

What the authors fail to mention is that for qualified students whose families earn less than $150,000 a year, the tuition at Colby is capped at $15,000.  For qualified students whose family earns $50,000 or less, the tuition is $0.

Posted by: Francis Mazzeo, Jr. | Oct 21, 2019 13:33

My father was pipe welder on many power houses, paper mills and other construction projects. He always claimed that there was more work for his trade when democrats supported working people. Now there seems to be no middle class workers and no middle of the road politicians. Republicans wanted the anti-labor right to work and now are trying to credit themselves with rebuilding the trades. The unions were no more corrupt than some of the people we have elected to public office. The union membership has decreased but the greedy, corrupt politicians still prosper.

Posted by: RALPH WALLACE | Oct 20, 2019 12:53

Classic conservative view, Jan. Supply and demand comes to education. Thank you.

Posted by: Kevin Riley | Oct 17, 2019 15:54

With regards to an industry close to my heart, general aviation, 2020 is the year we will no longer have enough aircraft mechanics to maintain the GA fleet.

We have shot ourselves in the foot by denigrating the trades. I fell for that and although I never got a degree after leaving the Navy I worked in the trades for a while, then engineering and IT until retirement.

I remember an episode of This Old House where the host was doing apiece on a trades school in MA. He talked with a young woman that was in the HVAC program and asked, what inspired her to get into the trades. Her answer was simple, "I will graduate into a 50k job, no dept and will own my own business in 5 years"

We are paying for the push to college over the past 4 decades.

If I had it to do over again I would have stayed in the trades.

Posted by: Mary A McKeever | Oct 17, 2019 15:31

Food for thought....

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