Youth Caucus Testimony on the College Affordability Bills

Youth Caucus Testimony on the College Affordability Bills

Today the Education Committee heard two bills regarding college affordability: Senator Justin Alfond’s LD 1703 “An Act To Increase College Affordability and the Rate of Degree Completion” and Senator Roger Katz’s LD 1702 “Resolve, Directing the University of Maine System and the Maine Community College System To Study the Establishment of a Pilot Program Based on Oregon’s “Pay Forward, Pay Back” Model of Funding Public Postsecondary Education.”

Both bills seek to address the epidemic of college debt in Maine and also directed the state to look into the “Pay It Forward, Pay Back” model from Oregon. You can learn more about the Oregon model by clicking here.

The Maine Youth Caucus decided to endorse both bills. Here is our testimony that I read:

Maine Youth Caucus Testimony in Support of

LD 1703 “An Act to Increase College Affordability and the Rate of Degree Completion”

Senator Millett, Representative MacDonald and distinguished members of the Joint Standing Committee on Education and Cultural Affairs. I am Representative Matthea Daughtry, and I am the co-chair of the Youth Caucus. I am here today, on behalf of the Youth Caucus, to testify in support of LD 1703, “An Act to Increase College Affordability and the Rate of Degree Completion” and LD 1702 “Resolve, Directing the University of Maine System and the Maine Community College System To Study the Establishment of a Pilot Program Based on Oregon’s “Pay Forward, Pay Back” Model of Funding Public Postsecondary Education.”

The Youth Caucus is a group of bipartisan legislators, of all ages, who share the common goal of  ensuring young Mainers can live and have a prosperous and vibrant future in our state. In order to accomplish that goal we have set out to endorse legislation that helps bring about positive change for young people in Maine. LD 1703 and LD 1702 are a great example of this type of bill.

Financial debt is an epidemic in America, especially for Americans under the age of 35. College debt is strangling my generation. A college degree is seen as a requirement for financial and career success but it is a reality that is becoming increasingly more difficult to attain.

The average price for undergraduate tuition, room, and board at public institutions rose 42 percent to around $13,600 from 2000 to 2011. During the same period the average price for undergraduate tuition, room, and board at private institutions rose 31 percent. This comes during a period where the amount of grant aid available to students has barely changed. Here in Maine our Maine State Grant Program is stagnant. Our financial grants have not kept pace with the cost of college tuition. Students are increasingly taking on more of the financial burden in order to attain a college degree. The amount of twenty-five-year-olds with student debt has grown from just 25 percent in 2003 to 43 percent in 2012. The amount of student debt grew by 91% over this same period from $10,640 in 2003 to $20,326 in 2012. To make matters worse the amount of student loan delinquencies has risen as students find it harder and harder to pay off their debts in this recession.

Young Mainers are often unable to go into the careers that they would like to due to the price. For example, the amount of college debt that one has to incur to become a teacher compared to Maine’s starting salary for teachers puts a damper on many who would choose to go into that field. The high cost of college also paralyzes entrepreneurship. Many who would be interested in starting their own business can not afford to due to college loans and a lack of venture capital.

This crippling debt is stifling my generation. Many have described Millennials as “failing to launch” and its easy to understand that term when one looks at what Millennials are able to do after graduation. Graduating with an average of $20,000 in debt means that many young adults have to put the next steps of life on hold. Many move back in with their parents since they can’t afford to live anywhere else. Others can not afford to purchase a car, get married, purchase a house, or save for a family. This has a large impact on our economy. 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. Also young adults are making up less of the labor force. The current rate of young people in the labor force is at the same level as 1972 despite a larger population. Young Mainers are facing an uphill battle and college debt is major factor in what is setting our generation back.

LD 1703 and LD 1702 would be a strong start at trying to combat the college debt epidemic. By exploring multiple methods of keeping the cost of college in check, LD 1703 and LD 1702 will help put Maine students ahead. The “Pay It Forward, Pay It Back” model from Oregon is an innovative approach to controlling cost. The Youth Caucus is especially interested in any program to curb student interest rates and increasing Maine State Grants.

Maine is a small state and the perfect laboratory for many of the higher education reform ideas that we are seeing across the nation. With a small population we have the chance to make a large impact and far more quickly than our larger neighbors in New England. The time to act is now. It’s time for bold action and political courage.

Signed,

Representative Matthea Daughtry, Co-Chair

Representative Matthew Pouliot, Co-Chair

Representative Justin Chenette, Vice Chair

Representative Beth Turner

Representative Craig Hickman

Representative Matt Moonen

Representative Ryan Tipping-Spitz

Representative Corey Wilson

Representative Scott Hamann

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This post was written by
Matthea “Mattie” Daughtry, a Brunswick native, is the State Representative for the Maine House District 66

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