Republican lawmakers on the Education and Cultural Affairs Committee stormed out of a work session Wednesday after learning that noncitizens were being actively recruited for free ride scholarships at Maine’s taxpayer-funded community colleges.
Some GOP lawmakers in the 130th Legislature voted in support of the free scholarship program, unaware that the Maine Community College System (MCCS) would seize on the opportunity to recruit out-of-state and foreign students to Maine for taxpayer-funded scholarships.
Republican Committee members refused to return to Wednesday’s work session on Gov. Janet Mills’ budgetary “change package” until the language that allows for noncitizens to receive free scholarships is removed.
Maine Wire Editor-in-Chief Steve Robinson and Sen. Jim Libby (R-Cumberland) joined WVOM’s George Hale and Ric Tyler program Thursday morning to discuss the recruitment of out-of-staters and “noncitizens” for the free scholarship program.
Sen. Libby said that he was shocked reading Gov. Mills’ change package when he combined it with reports coming from Maine’s college basketball coaches frustrated with out-of-state recruitment programs giving free scholarships to players.
According to the Central Maine Community College (CMCC) Athletics website, both the men’s and women’s basketball programs have consistently given spots on their roster to out-of-Staters and noncitizens over the years from places like Australia, New Zealand, Belgium, Sweden and the Netherlands.
“You probably could put up Central Maine Community College against Orono in a couple years, because you’re gonna have a whole bench of players that don’t pay tuition,” Libby said.
Republican members of the Education Committee were told after leaving the work session that the free scholarship initiative works as a labor program meant to bring out-of-state and noncitizen students into Maine’s workforce, but it’s unclear how many foreign or out-of-state students will remain in Maine after receiving 2-4 years of free education courtesy of Maine taxpayers.
“If this was an ongoing program, why didn’t [Governor Mills] tell us?” Libby asked.
“She said Maine residents, Maine high school graduates would get this money, and I think everybody in Maine thinks that,” he said.
In April 2022 Gov. Mills welcomed the CMCC women’s basketball team to the Maine State House to congratulate them on their third national title win in the last five years.
“On behalf of people across Maine, I am thrilled to congratulate the SMCC SeaWolves Men’s Basketball team and the CMCC Mustangs Women’s Basketball team on their National Championship wins,” said Mills. “These victories are the result of hard work, dedication, and perseverance.”
The 2021-2022 CMCC women’s basketball roster boasted five out-of-state and four non-U.S. citizen players from New Zealand and the Netherlands.
Despite the spectacle of Republican lawmakers walking out of Wednesday’s work session in response to these revelations, Maine’s top newspapers have remained silent on issue of taxpayer-funded free ride scholarships for noncitizens.
Sources say Michael Shepherd from the Bangor Daily News entered the Education Committee room shortly after the Maine Wire broke the news about MCCS’ noncitizen scholarship recruitment campaign.
Shepherd apparently interviewed Sen. Libby, but as of Friday no story regarding MCCS has appeared in the Bangor Daily News.
The Portland Press Herald and its collection of affiliated websites also has not run a story.
Neither has Maine Public, which, like Maine’s community colleges, is funded by taxpayers.
The Maine Wire and news radio stations WGAN and WVOM remain the only Maine news outlets to report on the controversial scholarship program, in spite of the fact that according to Sen. Libby most Mainers remain unaware that their tax dollars are funding the championship ambitions of community college basketball coaches.