Postsecondary education refers to education that occurs after high school. Traditionally people often think of 2- and 4-year colleges, but postsecondary education can refer to a broad range of educational opportunities, such as technical schooling, apprenticeships, Adult Education, and other learning opportunities that typically result in a degree or credential of value.

Maine has adopted a statewide attainment goal: 60% of Mainers will have degrees or credentials of value by 2025. As of 2021, that number stands at 52.6%. Below is a snapshot of postsecondary education in Maine.

We must increase access and achievement at every stage of the pipeline in order to achieve this goal, focusing special attention on demographic groups that face barriers to achieving credentials that lead to family-sustaining wages. Accordingly, we need to ensure that postsecondary pathways are truly accessible to and affordable for Maine families. In addition, we know national postsecondary enrollment rates declined during the pandemic which highlights the tremendous need to focus on these students.

Only about a third of Maine high school graduates ultimately make it to college graduation within 6 years of graduating high school.

Using the numbers below to apply to a hypothetical cohort of 100 students:

Graduate High School - 87%
Enroll - 48%
Persist - 30%
Graduate - 30%

Approximately 53% of Maine people hold a degree or credential of value.


Maine Credential Attainment Rate



College enrollment refers to Maine students who enroll in 2- and 4-year degree programs. The persistence rate looks at whether these students make it to the fall semester of their second year. We do not have enrollment and persistence data for non-college postsecondary programs.


The percentage of students enrolling in a 2- or 4-year institution in the fall immediately following high school graduation.

55% of Maine high school graduates enroll in postsecondary education the fall after graduation.

This rate has hovered around 60% for several years. The pandemic led to a drop in the number of students deciding to enroll.


Maine College Enrollment Rate

Source: NESSC Common Data Project (2021 report, 2020 data). 

There is a 25-point gap in the enrollment rate between economically disadvantaged students and their higher-income peers.

Fewer students across both income groups enrolled in college in the fall of 2020. The enrollment gap stayed constant.

Female students enroll in college at a rate 14 percentage points higher than their male counterparts.

Female students saw a 4-point drop in enrollment compared with the fall of 2019, while male students saw a 5-point drop.

Asian/Pacific Islander students enroll in college at the highest rates, while Native American students enroll at the lowest rates.

Asian/Pacific Islander - 66%
Two or More Races - 56%
White - 55%
Black - 54%
Hispanic - 46%
Native American - 33%

Notable: Native American students saw their college enrollment rate drop from 60% in 2019 to 33% in 2020. The enrollment rate of Hispanic students dropped from 56% to 46%. Detailed trends by race/ethnicity are available in the NESSC Common Data Report.


The percentage of students returning to a 2- or 4-year institution for their second year. Figures below are for students who entered college in the Fall of 2019.

63% of the enrolling class persists to the fall of their second year in college.

This is a 4-percentage-point drop from 67% from the previous year (2020).



College Persistence Rate

Source: NESSC Common Data Project (2021 report, 2020 data). 

There is a 20-point gap in the persistence rate between economically disadvantaged students and their higher-income peers.

Both groups saw declines in persistence rates from the previous year. Economically disadvantaged students saw a 3-point drop, while non-economically disadvantaged students saw a 5-point drop in persistence.

Female students persist in college at a rate 4 points higher than their male counterparts.

Both groups saw declines in persistence from the previous year. Females saw a 4-point drop while males saw a 3-point drop in persistence.

College persistence rates vary by race/ethnicity.

All groups saw persistence rate declines between 2019 and 2020. Native American students saw the biggest drop in persistence, from 61% for the class entering in the fall of 2018 to 46% for the class entering in fall of 2019. Please note that some of rates represent a small group of students.

Asian/Pacific Islander - 68%
White - 64%
Hispanic - 61%
Two or More Races - 61%
Black - 54%
Native American - 46%


College completion opens many doors for Mainers entering the workforce. Maine people with a college degree are eligible for more and higher-paying jobs than those who do not complete college. Below, college completion is counted as 150% of the normal program time (e.g. six years at a 4-year institution). The percentage of students completing their 2- or 4-year degrees within 6 years. For example, 4-year degree students who enrolled in Fall 2014 and graduated by Spring 2020.

64% of Maine college students graduate within 6 years of enrollment.

This rate has been stable over the past three years. This rate refers to graduates from 2020 and may change as we collect data from later on in the COVID-19 pandemic.


Maine College Graduation Rate

Source: NESSC Common Data Project (2021 report, 2020 data). 

There is a 40-point gap in the completion rate between economically disadvantaged students and their higher-income peers.

This gap widened in the past year as the completion rate among economically disadvantaged students dropped by 2 points while the completion rate for non-economically disadvantaged students increased by 4 points.

Female students graduate from college at a rate 11 points higher than their male counterparts.

The rate has been stable for female students and increased by 3 points for males since the previous year, closing the gap slightly.

College completion rates vary based on students’ race/ethnicity.

The college completion rate for Black students decreased 6 points from the year before, while it rose 8 points for Hispanic students over the same time period. These numbers are small and therefore should be interpreted with caution.

Asian/Pacific Islander - 72%
Hispanic - 71%
White - 65%
Two or More Races - 64%
Black - 54%
Native American - 33%


College is an investment in the future. College graduates can make over a million dollars more in their lifetime compared to those with a high school degree alone. While student loan debt makes headlines daily, it is still possible to attend postsecondary programs at low cost, especially at public institutions of higher education.

Financial aid can reduce college costs significantly. Maine students demonstrating financial need can qualify for a number of aid programs on top of institution-based aid, such as the Maine State Grant Program (up to $2,500 per academic year) and the federal Pell Grant. These grants alone can reduce the cost of college by several thousand dollars each year.

The cost of Maine colleges varies significantly by type of institution. This shows the average cost of tuition and fees before financial aid.

7% of per capita income

The cost to attend one year at the Maine Community College System is 7 percent of the per capita personal income in Maine in 2020 ($54,211) (U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis).

College debt varies significantly across individuals depending on the type of institution attended, demonstrated financial need, grants and scholarships, and time to complete a degree. The 130th Maine Legislature passed a bill in 2021 to reinstate the Commission to Study College Affordability and College Completion. As part of its work, the Commission will determine the average debt load of Maine students. We will include that figure here when it becomes available.


Maine Adult Education serves tens of thousands of individuals each year. It is a key part of helping Maine reach its 60% by 2025 attainment goal. Programming includes high school completion, workforce training, English language acquisition, college transition support, and general enrichment.


There are 70 Adult Education programs operating across the state of Maine. Many are co-located with area high schools.


Over 7,800 adults participated in academic, workforce training, college preparation, and English language courses through Maine Adult Education in the 2020-2021 academic year.


938 High school credentials (H.S. diploma or HiSET) were awarded through Maine Adult Education in the 2020-2021 academic year.


In the 2020-2021 academic year 1,480 credentials of value were earned through Maine Adult Education in high demand career fields like healthcare and technology.


Postsecondary credentials of value include college degrees, skilled trade credentials, and professional certificates and certifications. Educate Maine and MaineSpark set a goal that 60% of Mainers will hold a postsecondary credential of value by 2025. While we have made significant progress in this area over the last several years, we still have work to do in order to achieve our state-mandated goal of 60% of Mainers with a postsecondary degree by 2025.

53% percent of working-age Maine adults (25-64) have a postsecondary degree or credential

Maine’s Hispanic and Asian/Pacific Islander populations have the highest rates of credential attainment.

Hispanic - 50%
Asian/Pacific Islander - 50%
White - 44%
Black - 36%
American Indian - 35%