2018 Runner Up: The Harold Alfond College Challenge

The Alfond Scholarship Foundation Invests in the Future Education of Maine’s Children

Maine, along with the rest of the country, is trying to cope with a transitioning economy that requires more higher-educated and skilled workers. Maine is also the oldest state in the nation with a median age of 44 years. The aging population has two consequences: first, there are not enough young workers to fill the positions of those who are retiring or moving on to other careers that are now becoming available. Second, the healthcare industry will need to grow to support the aging population and infrastructure will need to develop so that access to healthcare can improve.

In addition, though Maine has high rates of high school graduation, it has a lower-than-average college attendance rate. Maine’s labor force will not be able to serve the demands of the state in the future unless more Maine high school graduates attend college. Maine students also borrow more than their New England peers, indicating that Maine graduates will have to pay more loans, which stifles career development and economic growth overall.

College affordability and preparedness stand in the way of Maine students attending college. Low-income families are less likely to enroll their children in preschool, and not attending preschool has been proven to impede success in high school and postsecondary education. Financial roadblocks stand in the way of Maine developing an educated and skilled workforce that will support the needs of its aging population and transitioning economy.

The Harold Alfond Foundation, a philanthropic nonprofit in Portland, Maine, has created the Alfond Scholarship Foundation to administer the Harold Alfond College Challenge to increase the likelihood that Maine children pursue education after high school. The Alfond Scholarship Foundation now grants every child born in Maine $500 at birth in a NextGen529. This account is only to be used for postsecondary education including certificate programs, associate degrees, and bachelor’s degrees and can be contributed to by the child’s parents and by the child as he or she gets older.

Since the program’s inaugural class in 2008, the Harold Alfond College Challenge has granted $500 to 80,000 Maine children. Including contributions from families, there is a total of $98 million currently invested in the future education of Maine children.

The Foundation intends to develop educational resources for families so that they can more easily understand how the account works, the benefits of investing in the account, and the best ways to prepare their children for postsecondary education. Also, the Foundation has reached out to schools, especially elementary schools, offering to provide materials and resources to teachers and administrators about preparing young children for future educational endeavors.

Pioneer Institute congratulates Colleen J. Quint, president and CEO of the Alfond Scholarship Foundation, on her winning submission.

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