Colleges failing students

As a college counselor, I have advocated for improvements in the college enrollment and retention rates for years. The May 23 BDN editorial, of course, moved me to write.

Here is a current example of the daunting financial barrier faced by Maine students and a major contributor to not finishing. B., a first-time collegegoer, comes from a family with no resources, and she received a “0” estimated family contribution on her federal financial aid report. She has no job and no savings, and this is what her financial aid package looked like from a Maine state college: $8,675 in grants and $9,500 in loans, of which $6,000 was unsubsidized. Unsubsidized means the loan starts accumulating interest all the way through the four to six years of college the student will typically take to graduate, if they do.

At $9,500 per year, the math is easy: $38,000 for four years, $57,000 for six years plus substantial interest (tuition increases, etc., not included). Factor in living expenses, travel, vacations and a lack of financial management skills, and what you get is potential failure to survive in college.

When I met with the financial aid director and pointed out the financial challenges this student faces, I was uninspired by the response. I called it “bait and switch” and predicted the student would fail, which she did. She joined the ranks of the non-finishers who were highlighted in the editorial, works at a fast food restaurant and will default on her loans, not only having nothing to show for her college attempt but will be excluded from future federal aid and will never go back to college to finish.

Our state not only allows this practice but participates, in my view, basically to keep generating sufficient cash flow to keep the system afloat. Shame on Maine higher education.

Peter Duston

Cherryfield

Ranked-choice voting for Maine

There has been much discussion about ranked-choice voting over the past year and for good reason. There is no state of voters across the country who are more ready for an overhaul of their voting system than Maine. This November, Mainers finally have a chance to lead the nation and make the switch.

I like ranked-choice voting because it gives voters more meaningful choices, promotes a more equitable way of evaluating the candidates and reinforces a more democratic form of voting.

Between 2008 and 2011, the nonpartisan League of Women Voters of Maine convened a study of alternative voting systems and corroborated many of these findings, ultimately rendering the decision that ranked-choice voting is the most cost-effective, administratively efficient and democratic method to ensure that our leaders in Augusta and Washington are elected by a majority vote.

I am excited about this movement and urge readers to spend time researching the issue. More information can be found by visiting the website for the League of Women Voters of Maine.

David Berg

Searsport

Controversial views

In his May 24 BDN letter, Dr. Gerald Metz of Addison stated that doctors’ billings for Medicaid patients are subject to write-downs. While this is true, it does not relieve doctors who are legislators, such as Dr. Geoff Gratwick of Bangor, the Democratic senator for District 9, from ethical requirements to publicly disclose financial conflicts of interest concerning legislation they support.

It should be noted that Metz and Gratwick share controversial views. Both are advocates of physician-assisted suicide and abortion. Metz has written letters to the BDN on that subject, as well as on abortion. His colleague, Gratwick, according to the Maine Right to Life Committee, supported physician-assisted suicide legislation and opposed pro-life positions on three bills concerning abortion and reproductive services in the 127th Maine Legislature.

Gerald Thibodeau

Treasurer

Larry Willey for Maine Senate – District 9

Bangor