STUDENT DEBT RELIEF AND COLLEGE AFFORDABILITY

Maryland college graduates in 2020 had on average over $32,000 in student loan debt, and Marylanders hold $34 billion in federal student loans. That must change. John is the first Secretary of Education to publicly call on President Biden to cancel student debt, but he also knows that we must treat higher education as a public good and make it affordable for Marylanders over the long-term. 

Higher education changed the entire trajectory of John’s family. His ancestors were enslaved in a cabin in Maryland but, just three generations later, John went on to serve in the Cabinet of our first Black President. The story of John’s family would likely have turned out much different if not for the blessing of higher education — his grandmother was one of the first Black women to graduate from the University of Maryland Eastern Shore.

Education will be a top priority for John’s administration, and as the next governor of Maryland, John will be committed to making sure that college is affordable for Marylanders.

 

As governor, John will: 

Expand student loan forgiveness and tax credit programs in Maryland.

  • As governor of Maryland, John will include more funding for student loan forgiveness programs in the Maryland budget. John will also expand the professions that can benefit from these forgiveness programs.  
  • Additionally, John will work to expand the Maryland tax credit for student loan payments.
  • John will expand public sector and nonprofit loan assistance repayment programs to cover more professions.
  • Under John’s governance, Maryland will send pre-filled tax forms to those likely to be eligible for Maryland’s student loan tax credit. This will increase the amount of Marylanders eligible for the credit claiming it, such as those who do not make enough income to be required to file taxes.
  • Just as evictions and other debt collection practices were stayed by emergency executive order during the COVID-19 pandemic, John will stay collection activity on student loans to create a grace period for borrowers to apply to and receive the benefits from the above programs before repayment resumes.

 

Address tuition prices by proposing a budget that increases funding to higher education institutions to prevent tuition increases and allows for a tuition freeze.

  • John will work to reverse in Maryland the trend we’ve seen across the country of defunding public higher education. John will work with state leaders to propose a budget that substantially re-funds higher education institutions in the state. This will lower tuition at public universities in Maryland that no longer have to make up budget gaps by charging more to students.
  • John will issue a tuition freeze for the University System of Maryland, ensuring that prices don’t continue to rise and make higher education even more unaffordable for students.

 

Work with the Attorney General’s office and make cabinet appointments to make Maryland the most aggressive state in the country when it comes to punishing predatory student loan and for-profit college practices. 

  • As governor, John will make executive branch appointments and work closely with the Attorney General to prioritize reporting, investigating and prosecuting student loan lenders and institutions that have violated consumer protection and fair debt collection practices, no matter how small the violation. 
  • As governor, John will fully staff vacant positions and increase staffing levels, including providing more staff to the Student Loan Ombudsman to increase the office’s capacity to respond to and investigate complaints.
  • John’s executive branch will prioritize taking on predatory for-profit colleges – a fight John led as Secretary of Education – and his administration will regulate that existing for-profit colleges in Maryland spend at least 50% of their incoming tuition on instruction and follow up with enforcement penalties to schools that do not. This will ultimately force the closure of for-profit institutions that are spending more on marketing than instruction and charge an exorbitant amount for a low quality education. 
  • As governor, John will create a task force to examine the impacts of student debt and come up with strategies for further relief.

 

Protect student loan borrowers in the courts.

  • Part of John’s budget proposal as governor will  include funding for counsel so that student debt borrowers being hit with collection actions are represented in court and so student loan creditors do not receive a default judgment in cases. As we have seen in Maryland, predatory student loan servicers have failed to keep proper documentation of debts and have tried to collect on illegitimate debts, forcing the borrower to appear in court multiple times. 

 

In addition to taking immediate action, John will address student debt and college affordability over the long term as governor. He will: 

Work with the legislature to implement education reforms like making community college in Maryland truly free, passing more consumer protections, and passing progressive tax reform to create a stable, long-term funding source for higher education.

  • Maryland’s current “college promise” for free community college is not a promise since it is deeply underfunded and overly restrictive. John will remove the income restrictions from Maryland’s current program, and fully fund it so that tuition and fees will be covered for all full-time students in Maryland’s community college system, or for the first two years of enrollment at any HBCU in Maryland. John will also make sure we take steps to ensure every eligible student can benefit.  This will improve college-going rates among Maryland’s high school graduates and adult learners while reducing student loan burden, and more fairly support the state’s historically underfunded HBCUs and their students. 
  • John will work with the legislature to pass “right of private action,” which would allow borrowers to bring lawsuits against debt collectors and student loan creditors for attempting to collect on debts that are not properly documented or for deceiving courts on the legitimacy of a debt.
  • John will work to pass progressive tax reform, so that even after the budget surplus from federal relief funds is spent Maryland has a sustainable, long-term funding source to keep public higher education affordable and debt-free. This includes fixing Maryland’s income tax code so it is no longer regressive; implementing combined reporting so corporations in Maryland pay their fair share; reforming the Enterprise Zone Tax Credit; and repealing the special use tax assessment for country clubs and golf courses.

 

Continue to use his high profile position to call for federal student debt cancellation, as he has with President Biden.

  • As governor, John will continue to use his influence as the first Secretary of Education to publicly support student debt cancellation to call on the President and federal lawmakers to unilaterally cancel student debt, just as he has done during this campaign
  • John will work to bring other governors to call for student debt cancellation, creating a vocal, nationwide group of governors to join him in pressuring the federal government into unilateral student debt cancellation.
  • John will continue to advocate at the federal level for debt free college proposals to eliminate the student loan debt crisis going forward.