Grant award would increase incrementally for each year of education the student completes
AUGUSTA – A measure to increase the award amount of the Maine State Grant Program received strong support during a public hearing today.
The bill, LD 627 “An Act To Make College More Affordable for Maine Residents,” builds on the recommendations of the Commission to Study College Affordability that includes increasing the purchasing power of the Maine State Grant Program. The measure, as drafted, awards students at the University of Maine System, the Maine Maritime Academy or the Maine Community College System to award $2,500 for students attending during their first year, $3,500 for students attending their 2nd year, $4,500 for students attending their 3rd year and $5,500 for students attending their 4th year.
“It’s not enough to just simply talk about the importance of higher education in strengthening our workforce and our economy. It is not enough to make a token increase that doesn’t have the same purchasing power from more than 20 years ago–an amount that we all know will not come close to addressing the financial challenges facing our future graduates and workers,” said Senator Rebecca Millett of Cape Elizabeth, the sponsor of the measure. “Making the public investment that eliminates the ‘affordability gap’ is what will make the difference for Maine’s students, Maine’s workforce, and Maine’s economic future.”
In February, the Commission reported that “many Maine College students experience a significant ‘affordability gap’ in their ability to pay for the complete costs of college – even when a myriad of financial sources are tapped such as family resources, part-time work, federal and state grant programs, and education loans”
Statistics show that the average debt for Maine college students jumped 25 percent since 2008 to nearly $30,000–putting Maine at the 7th highest debt per student in the nation. According to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and Liberty Street Economics report, student loan debt has surpassed credit card debt levels and the number of student loan delinquencies has risen.
Senator Millett added, “Too many in our state choose not to pursue higher education or fail to complete their programs due to an inability to afford the price tags. This is setting up an entire generation to start out in a worse financial situation than their parents. It’s a problem that Maine can’t afford to ignore.”
According to a report by Georgetown University and the Center on Education and the Workforce, young adults are reaching the middle class at a far slower rate than before. During the 1980s, young adults reached the middle of the wage distribution at an average age of 26; currently they don’t reach this point until age 30.
The Education and Cultural Affairs committee will hold a work session on LD 627, “An Act To Make College More Affordable for Maine Residents” later this session.