Alfond Scholarship Foundation launches awareness campaign
Mar. 1—LEWISTON — The Alfond Scholarship Foundation has started an effort to raise awareness of the benefits of the benefactor's investment in the future of Maine's children, kicking off its statewide campaign through what it's calling All in! LA.
The goal is simple — to make parents aware that every baby born in Maine since 2013 is automatically enrolled in the program and to encourage them to start saving for college or vocational training for their child. Employers are part of the equation as well, and many have already partnered with the Alfond Scholarship Foundation to offer a matching grant or other incentives to save for their children's future.
Geiger is a local employer that offers a matching amount to the Alfond grant if employees open a college savings account for a child. The city of Auburn is making benefit funds available to employees to help grow their Alfond grant. According to City Manager Phil Crowell, employees can open a college savings account and the city will match the amount, up to $500.
Lewiston Mayor Carl Sheline was on hand to kick off the awareness campaign Wednesday at Geiger, pointing to the tangible benefit for parents and their children.
"Seventy percent of jobs in the future will require education past the high school degree, but at the moment, only 53% of Maine students are currently earning a degree past high school. This program aims to close that gap and begin the conversation with families about saving for college early."
It's called a scholarship, but it is in fact a grant, invested until the child graduates from high school. In 18 years, that $500 can easily become $1,600 or more. Investing $500 a year for 20 years could see that amount grow to $10,500, so it's not hard to see a little can go a long way if its invested over time.
Since 2013, the Alfond Scholarship Foundation has invested $70 million on behalf of 140,000 Maine children all across the state. In Androscoggin County that amounts to 13,000 kids — more than 4,500 in Lewiston and 2,500 in Auburn.
If parents do nothing else, they should go to the Alfond Foundation website, www.myalfondgrant.org, explore the tools and resources available for free and update their contact information.
The organization says many lower-income families are unaware of the grant money available, especially immigrants who have settled in Maine and are also eligible for the grant. That's why they translated some of their brochures into six languages: French, Portuguese, Somali, Arabic, Swahili and Spanish.
The Alfond grant can be used for public and private universities, vocational schools and other qualified training programs, and does not have to be used in Maine and can even be used at some schools outside the United States. It's meant to help pay for tuition, room and board, books and even computers.