WATERVILLE — Thomas College announced Tuesday that it raised $30 million for its “Guarantee the Future” fundraising campaign, exceeding the initial goal by more than $3 million toward key programs and projects.

With the successful campaign, Thomas College officials said they can implement a variety of programs focused on career building and student retention.

“It’s really exciting,” Thomas College President Laurie Lachance said in a phone interview Tuesday. “The greatest affordability measure you can take is ensuring that students graduate college with the knowledge, skills and attributes that make them very employable.”

Thomas College enrolls around 750 undergraduate students, with 65% of students living on campus. There are approximately 200 graduate students. Thomas College’s goal is to grow the undergraduate population between 200-250 undergraduate students.

Thomas College President Laurie Lachance fields questions from the media Oct. 14 after it was announced that the school is receiving $13.5 million from the Harold Alfond Foundation. The college announced several new programs this week that the money has made possible. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel file Buy this Photo

In October, Thomas College announced its intention to generate $27 million for scholarship support, academic and student success programs, a new athletic facility and its annual fund. A $13.5 million investment from the Harold Alfond Foundation to be used for scholarships, renewed support for the Harold Alfond Institute for Business Innovation, launching new academic programs and supporting the college’s partnership with Jobs for Maine’s Graduates boosted efforts.

“What we’re really trying to do is everything in our power to keep students on track to graduate so they can pay those loans, earn that higher standard of living,” said Lachance, who received a master’s of business administration from Thomas College. “That’s always been the vision of Thomas, to truly change people’s lives.”

The college’s Guarantee the Future campaign began in 2017. Recently, Thomas College received a donation making it the largest gift from a living individual in the college’s history and a renewed TRIO grant from the U.S. Department of Education. Thomas College’s previous campaign brought in $13 million.

Of the $30 million, $10 million is in scholarships that are already being handed out; $6 million will be used over a nine-year period, and the rest will be built in endowment, which can be used to support future scholarships. The top three teams at the Thomas Cup were offered Alfond scholarships of $10,000; $8,000 and $6,000 each over four years.

“We started making scholarship offerings right away,” said Lachance, who thanked donors, especially for their support during the pandemic, many times during the interview. “It’s given us the flexibility to be creative, so there’s a real match.”

There is $5.7 million allocated to student success support with academics and social supports, with $1.5 million going to Jobs for Maine’s Graduates, supporting two JMG staffers on campus for the 80-100 students who participate in the program as well as more scholarships. In 2014, Thomas College and JMG became the first partnership of its kind in the country within the Jobs for America program.

“It’s supporting at-risk students as they enter and move through college to persist and actually graduate,” Lachance said. “Whatever the difficulty is, we can apply the right amount of money to the right student at the right time and keep them on track for graduation.”

Over half of Thomas College’s students are first-generation college students and the college achieved a record 74% retention rate this year. There is $4.4 million allocated for the new athletics center, which the college hopes to break ground on in the next six months. New academic programming in business and technology innovation received $4 million.

Starting in the fall, the college is debuting a business analytics major and a digital media major. Thomas College also launched an array of online graduate programs.

“All of our offerings in the graduate area are in eight-week modules that are very easy to enter,” Lachance said. “You can start when you want. They’re very flexible.”

The finances also support the Harold Alfond Institute for Business Innovation, which was founded in 2017. There is an emphasis in career development and offers students the ability to create a personal career plan and start building a resume early with internship assistance, industry certifications and online skill badges.

“This is a very, very robust development of personal and professional assets that will help position our graduates not just to land a job, but to really launch a career where they bring value,” Lachance said. “We help them get what they need to transform their lives and the lives of their families.”

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