FAME Declares Major Statewide Education Initiative

Education, Business, and State Leaders Join Forces to Set and Challenge Each Other to Reach New Goal for Maine to Help Build an Educated Workforce

PORTLAND, Maine — September 30, 2016 — Portland Mayor Ethan Strimling, the Superintendent of Portland Public Schools Xavier Botana, and Ben Gilman, Senior Government Relations Specialist at Maine State Chamber of Commerce joined Finance Authority of Maine (FAME) CEO Bruce Wagner to announce a major statewide effort called Invest in ME 2030. This new effort is intended to have a lasting impact on the economic future of the state of Maine. The announcement was made during an education rally at Portland’s Deering High School with students from the high school, Longfellow Elementary School, and Lincoln Middle School. Supporters in attendance challenged everyone in the state to get involved to reach the goal. Prior to the announcements at Deering High School, students participated in financial education activities designed to help them think about their future and what education will be needed to pursue their career and life goals.

Wagner announced FAME’s Invest in ME goal: By 2030, all Maine families are saving for higher education and Maine will have one of the lowest average student loan debt rates in the nation.

Helping Maine’s 256,000+[1] children actively save for higher education would help alleviate their need to borrow more later. About 64 percent of Maine college students graduate with debt and the average student loan debt per student in Maine is $30,908, putting Maine 7th highest[2] in that regard when compared to other states.

“Today we want to draw statewide attention to the economic impact an under-educated workforce and growing student debt are having on our state and stress the importance of starting to save for college or any form of postsecondary education early,” said Ben Gilman. “We chose Stevens Avenue in Portland to announce this major statewide goal because it’s a unique street in our state and in America—where a child’s entire educational journey can be traveled over the course of a few blocks. On this one street, you can stroll from an early childhood center, past an elementary school, a middle school, a couple of high schools, a college, and a graduate school campus.”

Gilman continued: “We are asking all of Maine’s political leaders, business leaders, community leaders, parents, grandparents, and educators to help us reach our goal. There will be something everyone can do to support the future faces of Maine and the future of our state.”

“We know that children with savings are six times more likely to pursue higher education.[3] Building college aspirations, increasing completion of postsecondary education, and making it possible for more children to go to college or trade school by increasing college savings and lowering student debt can play a significant role in boosting Maine’s overall economy,” Gilman concluded.

Maine’s Workforce—Growing Need for Skilled Workers

Currently, many Maine employers face significant challenges filling open positions that require higher education qualifications. The state faces a shortfall of skilled workers. FAME is working with statewide governmental and non-governmental agencies, employers, and educators on a workforce development coalition. They are seeking to increase the number of Maine workers who have some type of postsecondary certificate or degree. The reasons why these efforts are critically important include:

  • If Maine were to grow 65,000 more jobs, 60% of the workforce would need education beyond high school to meet future workforce demands.[4] Only 54 out of 100 students in Maine will go to college and only 39 will graduate within 6 years.[5]
  • College savings increase college aspirations AND completion; low and moderate income families with children are 3 times more likely to attend college and 4 times more likely to graduate from college if they have college savings between $1- $499.[6]
  • Economic growth depends on a highly educated workforce, and instilling aspirations to higher education begins at an early age.
  • Student debt limits graduates’ job choice and their ability to launch a new business, buy a home, start a family, and save for retirement.[7]

“The best way to attain an educated workforce to meet the changing labor and economic needs in our state is to invest in education beyond high school and make it available and affordable for more of our youth,” said Bruce Wagner, CEO of FAME. “We want to encourage everyone in Maine to take part in the “Invest in ME 2030” movement and help Maine reach this goal. It will take all of us to make a significant impact. To get involved, visit InvestinME2030.com to find action items that Maine people can deploy to make progress throughout the state. FAME will also be hitting the road to engage businesses, organizations, and families to inspire each of us to invest in the future faces of Maine.”

Scholarship Sweepstakes Announced—16 $1000 Scholarship Prizes for Mainers

During the event, to spark statewide awareness with Maine families about savings for higher education and reducing debt, FAME Director of Education Martha Johnston announced that on October 1, 2016, FAME is launching the Invest In ME Sweepstakes. The sweepstakes will award $1,000 scholarship prizes to 16 NextGen accounts, selecting one random winner from each of Maine’s counties.  Participation in the sweepstakes does not require an existing NextGen account and no purchase is necessary to enter.*   FAME invites everyone to visit NextGenForME.com for details about the sweepstakes and how to enter.

*An account will be required to be opened in order to receive the prize.

New Student Loan Resource Unveiled

In an effort to help Maine residents who pursue higher education not to be saddled with debt, FAME, along with its network of local Maine lenders, recently unveiled an online resource: TheLoanforME.com. Designed to be the ultimate student loan resource for Maine, the website helps families become informed borrowers, especially when they need to close the gap between the cost of higher education and what they have saved and might obtain through financial aid, grants, or scholarships. The online resource also offers help to Maine residents who want to refinance or consolidate existing student debt.

“We’ve been helping Maine families for decades be better informed about borrowing and finding affordable solutions to help reduce student loan borrowing up front,” said Johnston. “The Loan For ME can also help people with existing student loan debt explore ways to lower monthly payments and have more dollars to build their lives.”

About NextGen

NextGen is a Section 529 plan administered by the Finance Authority of Maine (FAME). Before you invest in NextGen, request a NextGen Program Description from your Merrill Lynch Financial Advisor or Maine Distribution Agent or call Merrill Edge at 1-877-4-NEXTGEN (877-463-9843) and read it carefully. The Program Description contains more complete information, including investment objectives, charges, expenses and risks of investing in NextGen, which you should carefully consider before investing. You also should consider whether your or your designated beneficiary’s home state offers any state tax or other benefits that are only available for investments in such state’s Section 529 plan. Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith Incorporated, a registered broker-dealer, member SIPC, is the program manager and underwriter.

[1] US Census, 2015

[2] Institute for College Access and Success, Student Debt and the Class of 2013-2014

[3] Elliott & Beverly, 2011, American Journal of Education

[4] Educate Maine, 2016

[5] Educate Maine, Education Indicators for Maine, 2015

[6] Building Expectations, Delivering Results: Asset-Based Financial Aid and the Future of Higher Education (2013) The University of Kansas of Social Welfare, Assets & Education Initiative

[7] American Student Assistance 2013, Life Delayed: The Impact of Student Debt on the Daily Lives of Young Americans