Governor Urges Early Planning for College SavingsSeptember 14, 2006 - TRCAUGUSTA - Governor John Baldacci today highlighted the NextGen First Step Grant Program as a way for more Maine people to plan children’s post-secondary education. The First Step program is one of many unique college savings programs the Governor promotes as part of his education plan for Maine. Proclaiming September as College Savings Month, the Governor noted the importance of higher education to Maine people and to the future economy of Maine. “Our children’s future is Maine’s future,” said the Governor. “A vital workforce is the key to a successful economy in Maine. That’s why a priority of my Administration has been to ensure all Maine people can access higher education and training opportunities.“Among my initiatives,” continued the Governor, “I have been working with the Finance Authority of Maine to make it easier for both parents and children to begin saving for the future. Saving for college is a great way for Maine families to prepare for the cost of college, and it’s never too late to start,” said Governor Baldacci, pointing to the NextGen College Investing Plan, Maine’s “529” college savings plan, and the First Step Grant Program. “With the recent launch of the First Step Grant Program, every Maine child born after January 1, 2006 is eligible for a $50 grant,” he said. “In addition, I’ll be awarding a First Step recipient born in 2006 with a $1,000 First Step Grant Scholarship in January of 2007.”The First Step Program is the latest in Governor Baldacci’s initiative to help families plan for the costs of education. The Finance Authority of Maine (FAME), which administers the NextGen Plan, has launched an aggressive public relations campaign to let Mainers know that Programs like the First Step Grant are available. In addition to a mailing that is received by the family of every newborn in Maine, FAME will begin airing television commercials reminding families to participate which Governor Baldacci showed at today’s press conference.“The First Step Grant is just that: a first step,” added John Witherspoon, Chief Executive Officer of the Finance Authority of Maine. “And NextGen accounts can be opened by parents, grandparents and even family friends, regardless of income, or residency. You can even open an account for yourself and pursue your own higher education.”Maine’s NextGen Plan is the 6th largest section 529 plan in the nation. And, NextGen is committed to Maine, having invested more than $14 million in Maine banks since its inception.“Investing for college is about improving futures for our children and for our state,” said State Treasurer Dave Lemoine. “Our NextGen Plan is one of the premier investment tools available in this effort.Treasurer Lemoine, who provides investment oversight to FAME on its Maine’s college savings program, added, “We’re also proud to say that Maine is the first state in the nation to allow a tax-deduction to those who contribute to any 529 plan, so eligible Maine 529 investors will receive a tax benefit for investing in the section 529 plan of their choice.”Lemoine pointed out that, in addition to benefiting from the traditional NextGen accounts, families with an adjusted gross income of $54,500 or less are eligible for a NextGen Matching Grant Program through which they would receive an additional $200 grant upon opening a new NextGen account with only $50. FAME also recently partnered with the Maine Department of Labor to establish the Life Long Learning Accounts (Maine LiLA Program), which promotes employer-matched, employee-owned NextGen accounts so that Maine workers can upgrade their skills and education while meeting the demands of businesses for a skilled work force.“It’s never too early or too late to save for college or to enhance your skills through continuing education for skill enhancement, and Maine is making it easy to do so with NextGen and the Maine LiLA Program,” said Witherspoon. “But what’s most important is that any amount Maine families are able to save today will enable them to leverage college debt with college savings in the future.”For more information on NextGen, contact FAME at 1-800-228-3734 or visithttp://www.famemaine.com/html/education/nextgen.htm.Read Online: http://www.maine.gov/tools/whatsnew/index.php?id=23777&topic=Portal+News&v=article-2006NOTE - This article reflects the views of the author and not necessarily those of the TRC Alliance Team.