- The University of Maine System will receive $240 million from the Harold Alfond Foundation, some of which it will use to create a multiuniversity engineering college.
- It is one of five higher education entities in the state to benefit from more than $500 million in grants distributed by the Maine-based education and healthcare-focused foundation.
- The system's gift ranks among the 10 biggest donations to U.S. public colleges, based on data from The Chronicle of Higher Education.
The money comes just a few months after the U of Maine System's accreditor, the New England Commission of Higher Education, approved a proposal for its seven institutions to be accredited as a single entity rather than individually.
Advocates for the move argued it would help the system share resources, though cost-cutting was also a focus. In his proposal to the system's board, Chancellor Dannel Malloy cited financial constraints and demographic declines as a factor in the decision.
The system expects singular accreditation “will be an important tool” to implement programs and initiatives supported by the funding, a spokesperson told Education Dive in an email Friday. Distributed over the next 12 years, the money covers four areas:
- $75 million for a new College of Engineering, Computing and Information Sciences.
- $55 million for graduate and professional studies.
- $20 million for student success programs, including undergraduate research.
- $90 million for athletic facility construction and renovation.
More details will be available as nearly as next month, the spokesperson wrote.
The system also plans to use the gift to help secure $170 million in matching funds from private and government sources over the next decade. The grant includes matching requirements in all four funded areas, according to the spokesperson.
Other higher ed recipients of the grants are Northeastern University's Roux Institute, the University of New England, Thomas College and Colby College.
The Roux Institute, in Portland, Maine, will use a $100 million grant to financially support graduate students, and fund co-ops and research.
Thomas, Colby and the U of New England plan to share more details about their funding next week.
"Foundations have really risen to the occasion," said Linda Durant, laureate and former vice president of development for the Council for Advancement and Support of Education. Those organizations' assets have returned with the stock market, she noted, and they are finding a need to support nonprofits.
Bolstering racial justice issues and helping colleges and students respond to the pandemic are focuses, Durant added. But foundations will be looking for the return on that investment.
"Stewardship is more important than it ever has been," Durant said.