Being Maryland’s comptroller has taken me to every corner of our great state. Whether I’m talking with taxpayers in Oakland or Ocean City, one of the most repeated concerns from the people I meet is the cost of higher education.
Parents want their kids to have the same, or better, opportunities than they had. But college loans can have crushing consequences for students and their families. The burden of this debt – now at $1.6 trillion nationally – has reached a crisis level. High debt payments affect how college graduates navigate their new lives as they pursue an advanced degree or as they enter the workforce. On top of rent, utilities, car payments and health care expenses, most young adults must pay off their substantial student loans. This can have a crippling effect on their financial future.
That’s why I am urging students to check out the Maryland Higher Education Commission Student Loan Debt Relief Tax Credit Program. While the deadline was September 15, students can still apply in future years. The tax credit is available to Maryland resident taxpayers who live in the state, who incurred at least $20,000 in undergraduate or graduate loan debt and who have at least $5,000 still outstanding.
To be considered, students must complete an application and submit the required documents. Individuals can continue to apply each year until the $5,000 credit is maxed out. To learn more and to apply, visit www.mhec.state.md.us.
For parents of younger children, it’s never too early to start squirreling away savings. I strongly encourage all Marylanders to enroll in one or both of the Maryland 529 college savings plans.
The Maryland Prepaid College Trust allows parents and grandparents to lock in tomorrow’s tuition costs at today’s prices. Under the Maryland College Investment Plan, parents and grandparents can choose how often and how much money to invest in the savings plan, depending on their budget and savings goals.
Savings can be used at nearly any public, private or technical college nationwide. Any earnings on these investments are tax-deferred and will not be taxed when the money is withdrawn to pay for college or other qualifying education expenses.
My kids are grown, but I’ll be opening 529 plans for my grandchildren and hope you consider doing the same for your family members. Visit www.maryland529.com for more information.
Lastly, now that schools are back in session, let me extend my best wishes for a successful and rewarding academic year for students, teachers, support staff, administrators and parents. I am grateful for the critical roles each of you play to make our education system the best in the country and to shape the next generation of young leaders.
Peter Franchot is the 33rd comptroller of Maryland. He serves on the Maryland 529 board.