A baby girl from Lisbon has become the 15,000th Maine newborn to receive a $500 Harold Alfond College Challenge Grant. Overall, the program has contributed more than $7.5 million to NextGen college savings for Maine kiddos.

The baby was born in April at Mercy Hospital in Portland and she is the daughter of Nick and Angela Mastrella. Officials with the program say Irie Mastrella now has a head start on college costs. Her parents took the time and enrolled her in the program, which was formed through the estate of the late Harold Alfond, founder of Dexter Shoe Co.  It really only take a few minutes to fill out the paper work and the account is there and ready to go. You don't have to do anything more, but you are welcome to add to it.

Since going into effect in 2008, the program has contributed more than $7.5 million to NextGen college savings accounts to help families prepare early for the costs of higher education. Any baby born in Maine can receive a grant if they are signed up before their first birthday. Now, as an adult college student paying for my own classes at community college, I can tell you first hand that no matter what your kids do for secondary education, it is going to cost some decent money. Start saving now. Years from now when those college bills come due, you will say "Thanks for the advice, Renee!"