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

USM Pres Cummings with the McGoldricks and Steve Pemberton

The University of Southern Maine unveiled a $15 million initiative — Promise Scholars — to bring a four-year college education within reach for more disadvantaged youth in Maine.

USM and the USM Foundation have already raised nearly $4 million in cash and pledges towards their goal, which would fund half the tuition and comprehensive expenses for its scholars.

Eventually, the program would help 100 students per year.

"The Promise Scholarship is at the heart of USM's broader next-generation vision and campaign, and it is the core of who we are as a university," President Glenn Cummings said at the Oct. 2 announcement.

Primarily, the students would be their first in their family to attend college. They would demonstrate financial need and come strongly recommended by a youth development organization.

Campaign co-chairs Carolyn and Richard McGoldrick conceived of the program and seeded the campaign with a generous gift.

"The Promise Scholarship was born out of our desire to help students one person at a time," Carolyn McGoldrick said at the announcement. "We are privileged to be able to do this. We're excited that we have found something that will serve as our legacy long after we're gone. We both believe wholeheartedly that education is the answer."

The program is ready to begin accepting applications for the 2018-2019 academic year.

The need is great.

Currently, about 85 percent of USM's full-time undergraduates receive need-based financial aid, and nearly half qualify for Pell Grants.

At USM, most Pell Grants go to students with a total family income below $20,000 compared to the $50,000 family income average.

About 51 percent of our students at USM are the first in their family to attend college.

Our students graduate with an average debt burden of $27,572.

"We can do something to change lives and that's what this is all about," Richard McGoldrick said.

He believes the program could grow even beyond the goal.

"This thing could grow exponentially," McGoldrick said. "There are hundreds and hundreds of kids out there who can use this help."

For more information about Promise Scholars, please go to its website

Read the Forecaster story here.

Read the MaineBiz story here.

See the WMTW-TV story here.

Read and listen to the Maine Public story here.

Read the Portland Press Herald story here.

Read the Seattle Times story here.

Read the U.S. News & World Report post here.