The state should raise the Maine State Grant Program from $1,000 to $2,500 per year for the most needy Maine college students, and add annual $250 increases to encourage students to finish college, say members of a special college affordability commission.

The state Commission to Study College Affordability and College Completion also found that Maine officials should provide more funding to public higher education institutions, including $3.8 million for the community college system to hire more counselors to help students finish school and expand work-study programs.

“I think this is really going to determine the future of the state,” commission co-chair Rep. Mattie Daughtry, D-Brunswick, said of the recommendations. “This needs to happen. We can’t just bounce it around. The time is now.”

Upping the Maine State Grant awards would cost the state about $27 million a year, according to the commission’s report, which will be presented Wednesday to the Legislature’s Education Committee. The committee will decide this session whether to introduce legislation incorporating that and other recommendations from the task force.

Daughtry said increasing the grant award every year would give students an incentive to stay in school. She also noted that the grants are good for Maine students attending any Maine college, public or private.

The overall cost of all the recommendations in the report would exceed $30 million annually in new funding.

Daughtry acknowledged the high price, but said it is critical for the state.

“We’re talking about the future not only of our state, but our economy,” she said. “We are not keeping pace with what we should be i nvesting in what is our economic engine for our stat e.”

College affordability has emerged as a critical issue nationwide as tuition costs at state universities soared more than 200 percent in recent decades and student loan debt increased to more than $1 trillion.

For the past three years, tuition at University of Maine System schools has been frozen. Gov. Paul LePage’s recent budget proposal would increase funding for the system by 3.6 percent over the two-year budget, to $182.6 million for the fiscal year ending in June 2017.

The commission also focused on college persistence, which measures how many college freshmen return for a second year, and how many get degrees.

According to a study of Maine high school graduates who attend Maine colleges, 83 percent return for a second year, compared to 75 percent nationwide, a survey by the Mitchell Institute found.

The state’s graduation rate at public universities is 51 percent, compared to 55 percent nationwide; at Maine’s community colleges, the graduation rate is 25 percent, compared to the 21 percent graduation rate nationally, the survey found.

The commission also unanimously endorsed targets for workforce training and degree completion, and asked the state’s institutions of higher education to review and report back on so-called “game changer” policy proposals. Those proposals, from the Washington-based nonprofit Complete College America, include changing how remedial courses are offered and credited, upping full-time status to 15 credits a semester instead of 12, tying state funding to student performance, and funneling students into highly structured degree programs.

This story was updated at 8:40 a.m., Feb. 11, to correct the spelling of Rep. Mattie Daughtry’s first name.