Includes Additional $385 Million Commitment, New “SmartStart” Portal; Higher Education Funding Tops $7 Billion Under Hogan Administration
ANNAPOLIS, MD – Governor Larry Hogan today announced a comprehensive series of initiatives to make a college education more affordable and provide relief to Marylanders burdened by student debt. Governor Hogan made the announcement at the Universities at Shady Grove campus in Rockville, Md.
The governor was joined by University System of Maryland Chancellor Dr. Robert Caret, Maryland Secretary of Higher Education Dr. James Fielder, Executive Director of the Maryland Department of Budget and Management’s Office of Personnel Services and Benefits Cindy Kollner, and Deputy Chief of Staff Tiffany Robinson. Also attending were university presidents and personnel including University of Maryland Baltimore County President Freeman Hrabowski, University of Maryland Baltimore President Jay Perman, University of Baltimore President Kurt Schmoke, Bowie State President Aminta Breaux, University of Maryland University College Chief Academic Officer Alan Drimmer, and University of Maryland Provost Mary Ann Rankin, as well as students participating in the Governor’s Summer Internship Program.
“In Maryland, nearly 60 percent of all of our college students are graduating with thousands of dollars in student debt. This financial burden is preventing young Marylanders from achieving financial security and has become a roadblock to home ownership and saving for retirement,” said Governor Larry Hogan. “That changes today, as we provide real and pragmatic solutions for our students and continue to invest, a record $7 billion, into making college affordable and relieving crushing student loan debt.”
Governor Hogan announced that he will reintroduce the administration’s Student Debt Relief Act as emergency legislation on the first day of the 2019 legislative session, allowing Marylanders to deduct 100 percent of the interest paid on their student loans from their income tax return.
The proposed legislation will also expand the Maryland Community College Promise Scholarship Program to include four-year Maryland public institutions. Students who qualify for the Promise Scholarship and fulfill the requirements by graduating from community college with an associate’s degree while maintaining at least a 2.3 GPA will receive free tuition for the remaining two years.
The governor also announced that the administration will double the deduction for families participating in Maryland 529 savings plans from $2,500 to $5,000. In total, today’s announcements provide an additional $385 million over five years in funding for college affordability and savings for Marylanders struggling with student debt.
To make navigating the paths to college tuition and debt assistance more streamlined and user-friendly, Governor Hogan announced the launch of a comprehensive initiative known as “SmartStart” for prospective college students, college graduates, and their parents. SmartStart has three components: SmartSave, SmartBuy, and SmartWork, which will collectively ensure that all Marylanders are fully equipped to make the most of their higher education experiences.
- Maryland SmartBuy helps homebuyers with qualifying student debt purchase a home. Today’s $3 million expansion to the program, and Hogan administration commitment to double to $6 million in funding over the next year, works by paying off student debt during the purchase of the home through special Maryland Mortgage Program (MMP) financing. Maryland SmartBuy involves the purchase of move-in-ready homes currently owned by, and available from, the State of Maryland. Coming early August 2018, Maryland SmartBuy 2.0, a limited-time program, will provide an opportunity for homebuyers to purchase any home in Maryland that meets MMP guidelines while paying off student debt.
- Maryland SmartWork will offer Maryland state employees working in specified shortage areas – such as correctional officers, nurses, and IT workers – the opportunity to receive state assistance to repay their student loans. Current state employees working in those areas that are paying down their children’s student loans also qualify for this benefit. To enact this program, the governor signed Executive Order 01.01.2018.17, Student Loan Repayment Benefits to Relieve State Workforce Shortages.
- Maryland SmartSave is an extensive resource of financial aid programs in the form of grants, scholarships, and other awards to help pay for furthering education. Financial aid can come in the form of grants, work, student loans, parent loans, scholarships, and other awards.
The new comprehensive SmartStart website can be found at SmartStart.Maryland.gov.
Since taking office, Governor Hogan has invested more than $7.1 billion in higher education and has diligently worked with Maryland’s public colleges and universities to cap tuition growth at two percent annually for Maryland residents at these schools, a commitment the governor reaffirmed today.
“Governor Hogan has demonstrated a true understanding of education’s critical role and its impact on Maryland’s workforce, economy, and quality of life,” said Chancellor Caret. “The governor’s vision, which is shared by the University System of Maryland, will create more high-paying jobs in Maryland, more educated citizens to lead the state, and a better quality of life for all.”
“Governor Hogan’s education priorities set a new standard of student achievement by allowing for affordable access to higher education,” said Secretary Fielder. “It is through the governor’s leadership that we can promote access, affordability, and innovation to fulfill our goal of increasing student success with less debt.”