AUGUSTA, Maine — A gift of nearly $11 million that was announced Monday will allow Kennebec Valley Community College to dramatically expand its campus to help accommodate a huge enrollment demand.
The gift from the Harold Alfond Foundation — announced Monday by Gov. Paul LePage and other officials at the Blaine House — also will help the Good Will-Hinckley School grow its new magnet school, the Maine Academy of Natural Sciences.
Greg Powell, chairman of the foundation’s board of trustees, said the gift was made possible when LePage and lawmakers ensured two key appropriations last year. The first was $750,000 to the Maine Community College System to support annual operating costs at the new campus, and the second was $530,000 to Good Will-Hinckley to fund operating costs.
“These were wise investments that will have long-term effects on our youth and our economy,” the governor said. “By 2018, nearly 60 percent of all jobs in Maine will require postsecondary education. Currently, we have a 20 percent drop-out rate. We can do better. Students deserve better.”
The grant agreement sets into motion the purchase of 600 acres and 13 buildings at Hinckley, which is seven miles away from KVCC’s main campus in Fairfield. The Hinckley property includes an academic building, modern recreation center, organic farm and a number of other buildings.
Maine’s community colleges have grown 83 percent in the past nine years, from about 10,000 students to more than 18,500. Last year, however, the colleges were unable to enroll more than 4,000 students in their preferred program of study, a sign that the schools are over capacity.
With the acquisition of the Good Will-Hinckley property, KVCC will be able to add as many as 2,000 students, nearly doubling the current enrollment.
“Harold Alfond dreamed bigger than most of us, and through his foundation his big dreams continue with this remarkable gift to the people of Maine,” said John Fitzsimmons, president of the Maine Community College System. “This investment will create a new college campus and will mean that 1,500-2,000 more Maine people have access to a college education. It is a gift that will transform the lives of generations of Maine people.”
Good Will-Hinckley now becomes a strategic partner with the community college that will soon move in. Many hope that the school’s Maine Academy of Natural Sciences, a magnet high school offering residential and day programs focused on agriculture, sustainability, forestry and environmental studies, becomes the state’s first charter school.
Lawmakers passed a bill last spring that paved the way for charter schools in Maine.
“That we can assist the Maine Community College System and Kennebec Valley Community College while also investing in the future of Good Will-Hinckley, makes this gift a win-win,” said Greg Powell, chairman of the Harold Alfond Foundation’s Board of Trustees.
Of the $10.85 million pledged by the Harold Alfond Foundation, $8.35 million will be awarded to the Maine Community College System for capital improvements.
About $1 million will be directed to the community college system to support the acquisition of the land and property at Good Will-Hinckley.
The remainder of the foundation’s gift — $1.5 million — will go to Good Will-Hinckley to support school operations and the school’s needs in the future, including the funding of scholarships.
The Maine Academy of Natural Sciences currently enrolls 20 students but is expected to grow to more than 40 for next year to more than 200 in the next decade.
“Today begins a new era at our historic institution, one that will transform the lives of a new generation of Maine’s young people. I have no doubt that George Walter Hinckley would be proud of the stewardship of his legacy, which we are securing today,” said Good Will-Hinckley President Glenn Cummings.
The Associated Press contributed to this story