PORTLAND — Described as a game-changer for at-risk students, the University of Southern Maine announced a new $15 million scholarship program Monday.

The Promise Scholarship is designed to give disadvantaged students the leg up they need to get the post-secondary education they require to transform their lives.

The goal is to help “talented students overcome financial, academic, social and cultural barriers,” in order to attend college, according to materials provided by the university.

With tuition aid, and financial assistance to cover the costs of room and board, the Promise Scholarship will help students graduate in four years with little to no debt, USM President Glenn Cummings said.

The scholarship is the creation of Carolyn and Richard McGoldrick, who started giving out aid to kids at the Boys and Girls Club of Southern Maine a decade ago.

At that time the McGoldricks were anonymous, but Monday they stepped forward as the face of the Promise Scholarship because they truly believe in the power of education to overcome insurmountable odds.

The McGoldricks live in Scarborough now, but previously lived in Cape Elizabeth for more than 40 years. Carolyn McGoldrick was a long-time second-grade teacher in the Gorham schools, where she was also an educational consultant for many years.

Cummings said the Promise Scholarship would “truly transform (USM) into the university of everyone.” The scholarship, he added, is “at the heart of (USM’s) next generation vision and is at the core of who we are.”

To be eligible for the Promise Scholarship students must be from Maine, must demonstrate financial need and preferably they would also be a first-generation college student and one that’s referred to USM by a local youth development organization.

With a $15 million endowment, Cummings said USM could support 100 qualified students per academic year.

Four million has already been raised, he said, which means the university can begin accepting Promise Scholars in the fall of 2018.

Promise Scholars are eligible to receive financial assistance for up to three years after the initial award, as long as they maintain a 3.0 grade point average and attend school full time, according to the university.

The scholars would also be “highly encouraged to give back to the community,” the university said, whether that be through volunteering, mentoring or supporting campus activities at USM.

In the materials announcing the Promise Scholarship, USM used Maine’s 2017 Measures of Growth report as proof that educational attainment is key to the state’s economic future.

“Education is one of the surest and most cost-effective ways to improve the lives of people and grow the economy,” the report states.

“Increased education reduces unemployment and social spending, while improving productivity, earnings, workforce participation and tax revenue,” the report says.

“For the future of our young people and the future of Maine, the Promise Scholarship is the best investment we can make,” USM said in a press release.

Cummings said one of the unique aspects of the Promise Scholarship is the partnership with some of the state’s most well-known youth organizations, from the Boys and Girls Club of Southern Maine to Camp Susan Curtis.

“By partnering with these outstanding organizations … USM’s Promise Scholarship program answers the question: ‘What’s next for these kids?’,” the university said in materials promoting the scholarship.

“At the University of Southern Maine, we believe that anyone, regardless of circumstances, who has the drive to succeed and the willingness to work hard deserves a chance at higher education,” the promotional materials said.

In her remarks Monday, Carolyn McGoldrick said the couple’s initial scholarship program was “born out of a desire to help one student at a time,” but then the two “began to think bigger” and that’s when they officially partnered with USM on the Promise Scholarship.

McGoldrick said she and her husband both “believe wholeheartedly in education” and are excited to launch the Promise Scholarship program in “a community known for its compassion and generosity.”

McGoldrick later said she and her husband hope to be “a positive example of what one person can do” to change the lives of others.

Under the Promise Scholarship disadvantaged students can “move into a life of expectation,” she said. “I truly feel this is a game-changer for the individual student, their family and the community.”

Kate Irish Collins can be reached at 710-2336 or [email protected]. Follow Kate on Twitter: @KIrishCollins.

University of Southern Maine President Glenn Cummings, center, announces the new Promise Scholarshop Monday in Portland. He is flanked by Richard and Carolyn McGoldrick, the scholarship campaign co-chairs.

Richard and Carolyn McGoldrick first started giving out college scholarships anonymously a decade ago, now they’re the face of the new Promise Scholarship program at the University of Southern Maine.

USM gets grant to help veterans attend college

PORTLAND — The U.S. Department of Education awarded a nearly $264,000 grant to the University of Southern Maine to help veterans who are the first in their family to attend college.

The Veterans Upward Bound program at USM will serve 125 low-income, first-generation veterans a year, according to a joint press release from U.S. Sen. Susan Collins and Angus King.

Of Maine’s more than 119,000 veterans, nearly 8,000 are low-income and more than 89,000 do not have a bachelor’s degree, the release said. The new veterans program provides assessment and enhancement of basic skills through counseling, mentoring, tutoring and academic instruction in core subject areas.

“At the University of Southern Maine, we have nearly 350 student veterans — the highest number of any college or university in Maine — and we’ve made it our mission to help them achieve and excel in their academic goals,” USM President Glenn Cummings said.

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