It’s a crying shame that more than half of parents of Maine’s newborns are not taking advantage of the $500 gift that is the Harold Alfond College Challenge.

According to a story published in the Bangor Daily News on Wednesday, only 40 percent of eligible parents have ever signed up for the Challenge, which is to establish a NextGen investment account for their child’s college costs. Any parent who establishes that account by their child’s first birthday receives $500 to get the savings started.

It costs nothing to do and every child born in Maine qualifies for this college savings program.

According to a spokeswoman for the Finance Authority of Maine, which administers the Alfond Challenge, one of the reasons parents may be hesitant to establish a savings account is that we’re all naturally wary of anything that sounds too good to be true.

This Challenge sounds good and it’s true, so there’s nothing for parents to fear.

The paperwork to establish the account can be a little daunting, but FAME is doing its best to make it easier to sign up.

The idea behind the Challenge, established in 2008, is for parents to add to the initial $500 deposit as their child grows, and to have funds available to pay for college costs.

It’s a good idea, and even if parents aren’t able to contribute much over the years, that initial $500 will earn money all on its own and be available to pay for something — even if it’s only books — when the child goes to college.

This really is free money. Those who qualify to take it should do so.

Consider it an investment in your child.

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Cheers to the Lewiston Police Department for its resolve to actively and aggressively enforce a new state law regarding loud motorcycle exhaust.

Last year, Gov. Paul LePage signed a law permitting police officers to cite motorists for having overly loud exhaust, something quiet-loving Mainers have been complaining about for years.

Maine is the first state in the nation to cite for noise based on an officer’s observations, and it’s a move endorsed by the American Motorcycle Association.

It doesn’t mean we’ll never hear another motorcycle ripping down a residential street in the wee hours of a summer night, but it does mean that when we do, we have recourse to reclaim the peace.

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The Freedom Tower — One World Trade Center — reached a milestone early this week on the emotional anniversary of the death of Osama bin Laden.

On Sept. 11, 2001, when the Twin Towers were destroyed by terrorists, the Empire State Building once again stood as Manhattan’s tallest structure. On Monday, Freedom Tower’s height climbed above the Empire State Building, reclaiming the World Trade Center’s status as the city’s tallest building.

Construction on the skyscraper is not yet complete, with 500 feet remaining to be built before the 104-story building stands at its final height of 1,368 feet. When the 408-foot spire is set on top, the building — also known as 1 WTC — will be the third-tallest building in the world (by pinnacle height). The tallest are in Dubai (2,722 feet) and Mecca, Saudi Arabia (1,972 feet.) The New York City tower may not be the tallest, but it will be the most symbolic.

Its mighty presence embodies American courage, recovery and pride — and its presence in New York’s skyline is most welcome.

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The opinions expressed in this column reflect the views of the ownership and editorial board.

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