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MD Higher Education Commission Near Completer
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“Nationals October 2019

GUEST COLUMN: Hogan is friend to higher education

| July 27, 2018, 01:19 PM

Dr. James D. Fielder , Secretary of the Maryland Higher Education Commission

College tuition, expenses, and student debt have been steadily on the rise nationwide. Nearly 60 percent of all of our Maryland college students are graduating with thousands of dollars in student debt. To be exact, college debt is now estimated to be $1.48 trillion nationwide and the average debt in Maryland is $27,455 per student. This financial burden is often preventing Marylanders from achieving financial security by becoming a roadblock to traditional milestones like home ownership and saving for retirement.

Governor Larry Hogan has consistently made college affordability one of his administration’s top priorities and has worked with us at the Maryland Higher Education Commission (MHEC) to produce real and pragmatic solutions for our students and graduates. The reforms championed by the governor will not only help the next generation of Marylanders, but will also provide much-needed relief to the hundreds of thousands of Marylanders who are currently burdened by student debt.

Since taking office, the Hogan administration has been working to make college more affordable by investing more than $7.1 billion in higher education, fighting to keep tuition down, and providing easier access to financial aid and student debt relief resources. In an effort to continue fighting the ever-growing student debt problem, Governor Hogan recently announced a comprehensive series of initiatives and investments to make a college education yet even more affordable and provide relief to Marylanders burdened by student debt.

I applaud the governor for working closely with Maryland’s public colleges and universities to cap tuition growth at two percent annually for Marylanders. I also support his plan to reintroduce his Student Debt Relief Act as emergency legislation on the first day of the 2019 legislative session, which will allow Marylanders to deduct 100 percent of the interest paid on their student loans from their Maryland state income tax return. Governor Hogan’s proposed legislation would also expand the successful Maryland Community College Promise Scholarship Program to include four-year public institutions and double the deduction for families participating in Maryland 529 savings plans. MHEC stands ready to work with members of the Maryland General Assembly and the administration to ensure this common sense legislation passes next year.

We know that it can be difficult to navigate saving for higher education and paying back student loans, so we are working now to make this information more accessible for all citizens  with the creation of a new portal, called “SmartSave,” on the MHEC website. This streamlined and user-friendly tool will allow students, graduates, and parents to efficiently find all the resources that the state and MHEC have to offer. SmartSave includes information at your fingertips on all available grants, scholarships, and tuition waivers, as well as loan assistance repayment programs and the student loan debt relief tax credit, making it easier for prospective and current students, as well as graduates and parents, to get help coping with college costs.

Governor Hogan has demonstrated that he truly understands the critical role of education and its impact on our state’s workforce, economy, and quality of life. Through his leadership, together with our state, local, and University System partners, we can promote opportunity, affordability, and innovation to fulfill our goal of ensuring that every Marylander has access to higher education options without the burden of unaffordable and unsustainable student debt.

Dr. James D. Fielder is Secretary of the Maryland Higher Education Commission

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