Colleges disagree with LePage that students from Maine are ‘looked down upon’

Posted Aug. 14, 2012, at 10:42 a.m.
Last modified Aug. 14, 2012, at 6:39 p.m.
Maine Gov. Paul LePage
Pat Wellenbach | AP
Maine Gov. Paul LePage Buy Photo

Disagreeing with Gov. Paul LePage’s statement that Maine students are “looked down upon,” five colleges and universities outside the state say Maine students are not less likely to be considered.

“We look individually at students. Where they come from in terms of states certainly has an impact on who they are, but we wouldn’t say students from a state in general are not strong,” Jacqueline Murphy, admissions director for St. Michael’s College in Colchester, Vt., said.

Last year, the percentage of students accepted at St. Michael’s who were from Maine was 5.3 percent, slightly higher than the percentage of students from Maine who applied, 5 percent. That implies Maine students seemed to be more qualified, Murphy said. “That says something right there.”

Last month, LePage said Maine students are looked down upon when they go to other states for school or work. “I don’t care where you go in this country. If you come from Maine you’re looked down upon,” LePage said. “Twenty years ago, if you came from Maine, they couldn’t wait to get you into their school.”

LePage made those remarks during a press conference outlining his new education initiative, the “ABC Plan.” ABC stands for accountability, best practices and choice.

LePage also said Maine students need to take a special test to be admitted to William and Mary college in Virginia. However, a college spokesman said that was not true.

After LePage made his “looked down upon” remarks, his press secretary, Adrienne Bennett, said LePage formed the belief from his life experience.

“He is a businessman. It’s from his life experience of talking to people,” Bennett told the Bangor Daily News. “While it’s anecdotal, he believes it.”

At her Vermont college, Murphy said she is “very aware of the fact the SAT is taken statewide” by high school juniors in Maine, a “huge initiative” by the state to encourage a college-going culture. Most states don’t do that, she said.

At the University of New Hampshire, it’s “not true” that Maine students are looked down on, said Sharen Gibadlo, senior associate director of admissions.

“Any student who applies and meets the requirements is going to have every due consideration,” she said.

UNH has many students from Maine. Last year, 800 applied for the freshman class and the school accepts between 70 to 75 percent of applicants. The Maine numbers would not be different, she said.

“Nothing would lead us to believe Maine is sending inferior students,” Gibadlo said.

In upstate New York, Elmira College admissions spokeswoman Christine Brown said the college has a large number of students from Maine.

When they get an application from a Maine student, “we get excited” that Maine students are considering Elmira, she said.

Boston University doesn’t regard Maine students any differently than students from other states either.

“Students attend BU from every state in the country and 140 countries across the world,” university spokesman Colin Riley said. “Every year we have students from Maine who apply and are accepted and do very well.”

At the University of Arizona, admissions director Rafael Meza seemed puzzled when asked if the school regards Maine students differently than students from other states.

“That’s an interesting question,” Meza said.

The mission of the University of Arizona is to serve in-state students first, so Arizona students are accepted before students from Maine or other states, he said.

Beyond that, “there is nothing that would make us treat nonresident students from Massachusetts or Maine any differently or any less,” he said.

Last fall, there were 22 students from Maine at the University of Arizona, he said.

When deciding which students to accept, the fact they’re from Maine doesn’t matter, he said.

“We would take a look at what they bring to us, academic preparation, how they took advantage of their high school, home school or charter school,” Meza said.

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