ORONO, Maine — The University of Maine Black Bear license plates have “exceeded expectations,” raising more than $1 million for student scholarships since launching in 2003, according to the University of Maine Foundation.
Foundation President Jeffrey Mills announced the milestone during the organization’s annual meeting last week.
Each Black Bear plate sold brings in $20, half of which goes to the Maine Black Bear Scholarship Fund, which supports need-based scholarships for UMaine students. The other $10 goes to the state highway fund. That $20 fee is added on top of the regular $25 new plate fee assessed by the state. When a driver renews his or her registration, the fee is $15, $10 of which goes into the scholarship fund.
UMaine broke away from the University of Maine System’s specialty plate 12 years ago to start its own. Monique Hashey, spokeswoman for the foundation, said the University of Maine Foundation felt the UMaine-centric plate would prove popular among students and alumni, being the system’s flagship campus and home to the state’s only Division-I sports teams.
“We have exceeded expectations, and what the system plate was bringing in,” Hashey said Monday.
UMaine received about $50,000 per year through sales of the UMS plates. The university hoped to beat that amount with its own plate and has brought in an average of more than $83,000 in scholarship money per year after making the switch.
Sean Pfahler, a 20-year-old sophomore secondary education student, got a Black Bear plate soon after starting school.
“I felt more like a part of UMaine when I put on the plate,” said Pfahler, who lives off campus in Bangor, making it more difficult to feel like a member of the UMaine community. UMaine offers a voucher to new students to cover the initial cost of the plate, but students still have to pay a $15 fee each time they renew.
Pfahler said he wasn’t aware that a portion of that fee went toward scholarships for UMaine students.
“I think that’s fantastic,” Pfahler said. “I gladly would have paid full price in the first place if I’d known that.”
He said he plans on keeping the plate well after graduation.
Data from the Maine Bureau of Motor Vehicles about what specialty plates have sold the most and raised the most money was not immediately available Monday. Employees are still working to compile that information, according to Kristen Muszynski, communications director for the secretary of state’s office.
Other specialty plates support causes such as agriculture, conservation and breast cancer. There are 10 in total.
The University of Maine Foundation also announced last week that it received a $2 million bequest to provide financial support to students who study forestry, agriculture or marine sciences.
The funding comes from the estate of Veronica Pendleton, a longtime Islesboro resident whose husband was a UMaine graduate. She died in 2014 but had set up a plan to award the gift to the University of Maine Foundation.
The bequest goes to the Raymond K. and Veronica Pendleton Fund at UMaine and will provide $100,000 in scholarships per year. That money will be awarded to undergraduate students with financial need or demonstrating academic success in those areas. In even-numbered years, preference will be given to students in forestry and agriculture. In even years, preference will go to students in marine sciences.
“Our work at the foundation is very rewarding on a day like today, when you have assisted someone in planning a legacy and witness it become a reality,” Mills said in a news release. “University of Maine students will benefit from this generosity every semester, in perpetuity.”
Follow Nick McCrea on Twitter at @nmccrea213.