Gov Larry Hogan, Republican of Maryland, made proposals on Monday that could make Maryland the second state, behind New York, to guarantee free tuition for bachelor’s degrees for certain students who meet income and other eligibility requirements, the Washington Post reports.
“Having a college education is more important now than ever before, but the harsh reality many face today is that earning a college degree often goes hand-in-hand with accumulating crippling college debt,” he said. “We believe that our new student debt and tuition relief initiatives will provide much-needed relief from student loan debt, and will help us continue to make college in Maryland affordable.”
The proposal comes just months before an election in which Mr Hogan faces a Democratic challenger in Ben Jealous who has been talking, for a year or so, about programs that would leave Maryland students debt-free upon graduation.
The governor’s proposal is one part of a three-pronged plan, totaling more than $350 million, that would make college more affordable for Maryland students and, he hopes, help ease the burden of student debt.
The proposal’s three parts
The governor says he would like to introduce legislation that would:
- Expand the College Promise program, slated to start next year, so graduates of the program could attend four-year colleges tuition-free
- Double the deduction on state income taxes from $2,500 to $5,000 for those who participate in the Maryland 529 college saving plan
- Allow Marylanders to deduct 100 percent of the interest paid on their student loans
The current version of the College Promise program, which Mr Hogan signed into law earlier this year after a legislative session during which he made no public comments on the bill, provides scholarships of up to $5,000 to students whose families earn less than $150,000 a year and to adults earning less than $100,000.
Under the current program, students have to enroll in one of the state’s 16 community colleges within two years of finishing high school or obtaining a GED, and they need to maintain a course load of 12 credit hours to remain eligible. That may disqualify certain adult learners as well as part-time students, who comprise much of the community college student body.
Mr Hogan’s new proposal, which he announced Monday at the Universities at Shady Grove in Rockville, would extend the program to include four-year colleges and universities, costing about $175 million over five years. He would likely pay for the program with new revenue from Maryland’s expanding economy, the Post reported.
“In Maryland, nearly 60 percent of all of our college students are graduating with thousands of dollars in student debt,” Mr Hogan said in a press release. “This financial burden is preventing young Marylanders from achieving financial security and has become a roadblock to home ownership and saving for retirement. That changes today, as we provide real and pragmatic solutions for our students and continue to invest … into making college affordable and relieving crushing student loan debt.”