WATERVILLE — Thomas College announced Oct. 14 that the Harold Alfond Foundation’s $13.5 million gift will include funding to continue the Jobs for Maine’s Graduates College Success program at Thomas and significantly expand scholarship opportunities for its students and Maine’s future leaders.

“The Harold Alfond Foundation has been a cornerstone funder of the College Success program and the JMG/Thomas College partnership since its inception,” said JMG President Craig Larrabee, according to a news release from the college.

This fall, despite the challenges of COVID-19, a total of 35 new JMG high school graduates enrolled at Thomas College, the highest number of enrollees since the program launched in 2014, as the first college-level program in the nation.

“So many students and their families focus on securing enough financial aid and scholarships for the student’s first year of college, but then find that the funding can fall short as the student progresses,” said Larrabee, according to the release. “Very few private scholarships support students for a full four years, and Thomas College leadership has the vision and the commitment to make this happen. The Harold Alfond Foundation grant will remove this barrier faced by so many JMG students.”

The Thomas College and JMG partnership officially began in 2014 as a new college success program. Thomas College was the first college in Maine to launch the program and to have a JMG specialist on its college campus. Since then, Thomas has become a model for other Maine colleges starting similar programs and expanded its own program, adding an office on campus with two specialists, offering student learning and career development opportunities in the summer months, creating a student-led JMG Club, and growing its JMG population to more than 80 students.

“We have been so fortunate to partner with JMG to ensure the success of our future leaders of Maine,” said Thomas College President Laurie Lachance, according to the release. “Thomas College is grateful for the Harold Alfond Foundation’s investment in these students. To all you JMG high school students, I encourage you to apply to Thomas College and take advantage of all the supports, including scholarships, available to you.”

JMG is one of many student programs that help Thomas students succeed. Recently, the college was awarded its second TRIO Student Support Services grant of nearly $1.3 million to support the success, retention, and graduation of first-generation students, students from low-income families and/or students with identified disabilities. Also, U.S. News & World Report recently ranked Thomas College #7 among colleges in the Northeast for upward mobility of its graduates.