The Harold Alfond College Challenge is the name we give to our program through which a $500 grant for college is provided to every Maine resident baby.

The “Challenge” refers to our efforts to encourage everyone – children, parents, community members, educators, businesses and foundations – to “rise to the challenge” of ensuring a more promising future for Maine by helping us to boost the state’s educational attainment levels through college savings and investing.

The $500 that we provide is just the first step. We work with families, schools, businesses, foundations and community members, to encourage family savings and share educational messages throughout the child’s elementary, middle and high school years.

Our program has three core elements: Enrollment, Family Savings and Education Messaging. Now that Enrollment is automatic, we will be able to put increased energy and attention to Family Savings and Education Messaging.

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Automatic Enrollment ensures that all Maine resident babies from 2014 on will receive the $500 grant, whether or not a parent opens their own college investing account.

We see Family Savings as the key to the long-term success of our efforts. Every parent wants a promising future for their child. When parents are able to add their own investment to this effort, even in modest amounts, it not only provides practical benefits it also reinforces the relevance and importance of their aspirations.

An integral part of our program model relates to Educational Messaging and, in particular, improved financial literacy. We are excited to work with Maine educators to reinforce the messages they regularly provide to students and families about the value and importance of education. Part of how we do that is by marrying the “money with the message” in the form of quarterly financial summaries which families receive. These summaries not only show how the $500 investment is doing, they also share educational messages around four main content areas: Literacy, Science & Math, Health and Finances.

All of this is done to encourage Maine students and parents alike to raise their aspirations, and to improve their readiness and likelihood of continuing their education after high school.

For more information about the program, visit www.500forbaby.org .