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College Grant Program Draws Strong Support

A proposal that would increase the state grant to help students pay for college drew broad support at a public hearing in Augusta Monday.

Students and faculty members like University of Maine physics professor James McClymer testified that the increase will help students faced with growing debt to graduate.

“The decision to increase the minimum from $1,000 to $2,000 is not a magic bullet that is going to solve all our problems,” he says. “But, it is sending the right message, it’s moving things forward and in many cases a relatively small amount of money can make a big difference in a student succeeding.”

Under current law about 10,000 students get a basic grant from the state of $1,500 to help them with college costs. The legislation would increase the grant amount to $2,000.

Kevin McConnell, a USM student, says despite the increase, he’ll have to borrow a substantial amount to go to college.

“I am not alone in this scenario. One of my closest personal friends and roommate is a recent graduate of the University of Southern Maine’s masters in education program and he graduated with over $50,000 in student debt,” he says.

The bill is sponsored by state Sen. Rebecca Millett of South Portland.