All Maine Babies Can Receive $500 Toward Higher Education Through Harold Alfond College Challenge

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Nation's First Statewide Philanthropic Grant Program Wraps Up Successful '08 Pilot Year; Extended To Include All Maine Resident Babies in 2009

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In these trying economic times, little is financially secure

Continuing the late Harold Alfond's lifelong commitment to education, the Alfond Scholarship Foundation today announced the launch of the statewide phase of the Harold Alfond College Challenge, an unprecedented college savings grant program that provides a $500 grant to start a NextGen® College Investment Plan Account for all Maine resident babies. The Harold Alfond College Challenge will be administered by the Finance Authority of Maine (FAME).

The Harold Alfond College Challenge was piloted in 2008 by MaineGeneral Medical Center and FAME, reaching out to the more than 1,200 babies born at the Augusta and Waterville hospitals in 2008. On January 1, 2009, through the assistance of the Maine Hospital Association, the Challenge extends statewide to all infants born in Maine or who become Maine residents before their first birthday. It is expected that more than 14,000 babies will be born in Maine in 2009.

"Mr. Alfond created the Harold Alfond College Challenge with the hope that families, communities and businesses would rise to the challenge of investing in the future and educational aspirations of Maine's children," said Gregory Powell, chairman of the board of trustees of the Harold Alfond Foundation and president and chief executive officer of Dexter Enterprises, which administers the Harold Alfond Foundation.

"Thanks to a successful pilot year, we are ready to extend the Harold Alfond College Challenge to all Maine babies beginning in 2009, and make Mr. Alfond's dream a reality. In doing so, we give the babies in Maine a great start to reach their dreams," Powell continued.

"Today we celebrate the vision and the legacy of the late Harold Alfond. And we also celebrate the potential of our great State," said Governor Baldacci. "These children -- the future of Maine -- deserve every opportunity for success. Through the Harold Alfond College Challenge, we can give them a good start toward a college education and reaching their fullest potential."

The Harold Alfond College Challenge provides each Maine baby a $500 grant to start a NextGen account for education beyond high school. Working in partnership with the FAME, the Alfond Scholarship Foundation will provide a $500 grant to be invested in a NextGen account opened for newborn Maine residents, with enrollment eligibility through the child's first birthday.

"I am the eldest of five and I know what it means to pay for your own college education," said Stephanie Cichowski, mother of Ella and a participant in the pilot year of the Harold Alfond College Challenge. "What really felt good about this program is that we got in on the ground floor. I was able to start making plans about how I was going to provide for Ella's education before she even arrived...I don't know where the economy is going these days, but this is a starting point, and it's important to start somewhere."

To maintain families' enthusiasm in the program and encourage further participation, all Alfond Grant participants will receive quarterly updates that share factual and aspirational information about the value of continuing education, college savings and other related topics.

The $500 grant will be used as the initial contribution to open the NextGen® account. There are no income limits on receiving the grant and while there is no requirement to add to the account, it was Mr. Alfond's hope that families and businesses and possibly even communities would continue contributing to children's NextGen accounts.

"In these trying economic times, little is financially secure," said Powell. "What is certain, however, is that every Maine baby deserves this start. That's where the Harold Alfond College Challenge comes in. Now more than ever, it's important to take steps to help your child's future prospects, like investing and preparing them for life's opportunities. This program helps with a $500 start on saving for education beyond high school."

For more information on the Harold Alfond College Challenge please call 800-228-3734 or visit http://www.500forbaby.org.

Before you invest in the NextGen plan, please carefully read the NextGen Enrollment Kit. The program description contains more complete information, including investment objectives, charges, expenses and risks of investing in the NextGen plan, which you should consider. You should also consider whether your home state or your designated beneficiary's home state offers any state tax or other benefits that are only available for investments in such state's 529 plan. NextGen is a Section 529 plan administered by the Finance Authority of Maine. Merrill Lynch is the Program Manager and underwriter.

About the Alfond Scholarship Foundation:
The Alfond Scholarship Foundation is a nonprofit corporation established specifically to sponsor and support the Harold Alfond College Challenge. This new foundation is a partnership of organizations and individuals who truly embrace Mr. Alfond's philosophy, and includes representatives from the Maine Compact for Higher Education, FAME, the University of Maine System, the Maine Community College System, the Maine Community Foundation, the Mitchell Institute, and at-large members that include representatives from MaineGeneral Health and the Maine Hospital Association. To learn more about the Harold Alfond College Challenge, please visit http://www.500forbaby.org.

About the Finance Authority of Maine (FAME):
FAME is a quasi-independent state agency that provides innovative financial solutions to help Maine people and businesses pursue educational and business opportunities. Established in 1983, FAME is committed to innovative, flexible financial solutions that address the needs of Maine individuals and companies in a changing economic landscape. FAME is the administrator of the Harold Alfond College Challenge. To learn more about FAME, please visit http://www.famemaine.com

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Elizabeth Horton