October 3, 2017

USM unveils $15M 'Promise Scholars' program to aid disadvantaged youths

Courtesy / University of Southern Maine
Courtesy / University of Southern Maine
Glenn Cummings, president of the University of Southern Maine, is joined by Richard and Carolyn McGoldrick, who've initiated through the USM Foundation a $15 million campaign to fund the "Promise Scholarship" program. The program aspires to provide up to 100 students with as much as 50% of their costs to attend college.

The University of Southern Maine Foundation launched a campaign to raise $15 million to fund its Promise Scholarship program, money that would provide up to 100 students with as much as 50% of their costs to attend the university.

The campaign will fund scholarships of an average of $5,000 a year, and is aimed at students who otherwise wouldn't be able to attend college. The program works with 21 community partners to identify students who qualify, which the university cites as a unique aspect to the program.

It was initiated by Richard and Carolyn McGoldrick of Cape Elizabeth through the USM Foundation. Richard McGoldrick is the founder of Commercial Properties Inc., a Portland development and real estate management company.

In its news release announcing the initiative, USM, which has campuses in Portland and Gorham, stated that the need is great. About 85% of USM's 6,100 full-time undergraduates receive need-based financial aid. Nearly half qualify for Pell grants and most of those go to students whose total family income is below $20,000.

The estimated cost to attend the school for Maine residents is $19,620, which includes fees and room and board.

About 51% of USM undergraduates are the first in their family to attend college, and USM students graduate with an average debt burden of $27,572.

The goal is to offer average scholarships to 100 students, at a total of $500,000, a year. The scholarships not only "bridge the gap" between other financial aid the students would get and the total cost, but the program also offers support in "the critical first year" of school.

The scholarship is aimed at first-generation college students who come recommended by one of the youth development organizations from across the state partnering with the program. The community partners include organizations like the YMCA and YWCA, Boys & Girls Clubs as well as the Olympia Snowe Women's Leadership Institute, Lewiston's Tree Street Youth, the Maine Home for Little Wanderers and Good Will-Hinckley in Fairfield.

The partners help the program identify potential scholarship recipients.

Those receiving the scholarships must be Maine residents who demonstrate financial need.

They must be incoming undergraduates or community college transfer student who are looking to complete a bachelor's degree. They also must be enrolled full-time, with a minimum 15 credit hours per semester and 30 for the year. The program also gives weight to a recommendation from one of the community partners and those students who are first-generation college students.


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