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In Maine, a push to apply to college

It may be required of high schoolers

AUGUSTA, Maine - A state law encouraging high school seniors to continue their education by completing at least one postsecondary school application took effect last month, but Maine's top education official is looking to take the approach a step further.

Education Commissioner Susan Gendron is proposing a requirement that seniors apply to college before becoming eligible for a diploma. The change in state rules on graduation requirements would require approval by the Legislature.

If approved during the upcoming session, the change would affect the class of 2009, but Gendron is urging high schools to make the change during the current school year.

The idea is to raise the number of Maine youths going to college and promote educational opportunities for all students.

About 85 percent of high school seniors say they intend to enroll in college, but far fewer actually do, Gendron said. She cited Maine Compact for Higher Education statistics that show that only 50 percent attend college in the fall after their graduation.

Not all educators are embracing the idea.

"I'm not sure we should be encouraging students to apply to college who don't intend to go. That's really not appropriate of the college admissions process," said Gus LeBlanc, principal of Lewiston High School.

"I understand what she's trying to get at," boosting aspirations, he said. "I agree with that. We're doing that."

The law encouraging postsecondary school applications was based on a resolve from House Speaker Glenn Cummings. He got the idea from Poland High School, the first in Maine to make applying to college a requirement.

Poland's principal, Bill Doughty, said college should be defined broadly to include two- and four-year institutions and career schools.

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