The University of Southern Maine’s Promise Scholarship Program is a life-changing opportunity for many talented young Mainers who otherwise could not afford to attend college. The program, which welcomed its third cohort of scholars this fall, is more than just a scholarship. It fills the financial aid gap for these first-generation college students and also provides deep, ongoing academic, social, cultural, and community support to help students thrive at USM.
On Thursday, September 24, President Cummings announced an unprecedented matching gift challenge to fully endow the Promise Scholarship program to benefit future generations of Maine students with high academic potential but limited financial means. The Promise matching gift challenge comes at a critical moment when scholarship support for higher education is more essential than ever.
“The Promise Scholarship is at the very heart of USM’s mission to widen access to a college degree,” Cummings said. ”Now, two extraordinarily generous donors have challenged us to raise $1 million by the end of the year, which they will match dollar for dollar. By rising to this challenge, we can help thousands of aspiring, first-generation students complete their degrees and graduate without debt, ready to contribute their skills to Maine’s workforce.”
In the words of junior Hussein Maow ’22, “Being a Promise Scholar means having the privilege of not working a full-time job to pay for my education. It allows me to be an active leader of our community, making changes that lead us to live an equitable life.”
In Student Government Association elections this past spring, Hussein was chosen as Student Body Vice President. He also serves as a Promise Peer Mentor, supporting new scholars in the program.
The USM Foundation is spearheading the fundraising campaign for the Promise Scholarship Challenge, which was offered anonymously by individuals committed to “fulfilling the promise” of this ambitious and innovative scholarship initiative. Successfully raising the $1,000,000 by December 31, 2020, will generate $1,000,000 in matching funds and help enable USM to endow the Promise Scholarship in perpetuity.
This fall, 24 Promise Scholars from across the state of Maine began their college journeys. As with all 58 Promise Scholars currently enrolled at USM, these students have demonstrated academic excellence and a passion for giving back to their communities, and they also have limited financial means. They hail from 16 different high schools and 11 youth-serving organizations, such as JMG, the Olympia Snowe Women’s Leadership Institute, Boys & Girls Clubs of Southern Maine, and TRIO Upward Bound.
Unique to the Promise Scholarship is the partnership shared with nearly 30 successful youth service organizations and community college throughout Maine, who identify and refer talented, qualified students to USM as potential Promise Scholars.
Through endowed and spendable funds, the University’s goal is to support up to 100 Promise Scholars every year — approximately 25 in each class — with personalized scholarship awards that bridge the gap between the cost of tuition and fees and each student’s financial aid package, including Pell grants, state aid, and merit scholarships. It is designed to enable students to graduate in four years debt-free.