Success in Maine

  • Inequality & the Middle Class
  • Training Programs
  • Children & Families
  • Higher Education
Executive Director, Scholars Strategy Network

I am writing with exciting news from Maine, where SSN chapter leaders and members have become a go-to resource for policymakers, civic leaders, and journalists.

When Maine Equal Justice Partners, an organization with over two decades of experience working with parents struggling with poverty, needed an expert voice, they turned to the Maine SSN chapter and SSN scholars Luisa Deprez and Lisa Dodson.

Luisa and Lisa’s brief, “Helping Parents Get A College Education Helps Children Succeed,” explains the research behind LIFT 2.0, a bill that expands access to career-oriented higher education for low-income parents.

After Luisa and Lisa wrote this brief, Luisa testified at the bill's committee hearing and answered questions from lawmakers. Next, using their SSN brief, the two professors wrote a commentary for the Portland Press Herald, the largest circulation newspaper in Maine. Their piece was published on February 19.

A few weeks later, the committee unanimously voted to approve the LIFT bill. Leaders in the Maine Department of Health and Human Services who had originally been skeptical of the legislation decided to support the bill.

“It took some convincing to get the Department to agree to support any four-year programs, given their strong interest in moving people into the labor force ... but Speaker Sara Gideon was ready to fight for that and had Luisa and Lisa's research and testimony to back up her conviction.” --Joby Thoyalil, Policy Analyst for MEJP

Lift 2.0 became law on April 17. As a result, each year some 500 low-income Maine parents will now get the financial help, childcare services, transportation assistance, and one-on-one support they need to achieve degrees in healthcare, engineering and technology.

Civic organizations like Maine Equal Justice Partners are essential players in efforts to make public policy better in state capitals across the U.S. I am proud that every day more and more SSN researchers are working hand in hand with these key organizations.