A plan to pay off student loans for Connecticut College graduates who stay in the state
Helping college graduates pay off student loans could be a response to Connecticut’s slowing population loss and rising state tax revenues, according to State Senator Kevin Witkos, R-Canton, Member rank of the committee for the promotion of higher education and employment of the legislature. .
“We have continually invested in the brick and mortar of our state institutions, it is time we supported the brains and bodies of the people who use buildings,” Witkos said in an interview with CT Examiner.
The legislation, called “Learn-Work-Pay,” would help any Connecticut resident who attends one of the state’s public universities and then stays in Connecticut after graduation to pay off their student loans. During the ten years following graduation, the state would agree to pay an increasing share of the amount borrowed, starting at 10 percent and ending at 90 percent.
“By then, graduates will be living in our state for ten years, contributing to the tax base and likely staying in the state to raise their families for years,” Witkos said.
In the last census, Connecticut was one of 10 states to lose population in the previous decade.
In a previous effort, in 2019, the legislature attempted to get more young people to stay in the state by offering a tax credit for graduates of higher education institutions and private vocational schools within the state. But Witkos said tax credits just don’t resonate the same with college graduates as hard dollars.
Unlike tax credits, the Learn-Work-Pay program would directly tackle the issue of student debt and provide graduates with a real incentive, Witkos said.
“The driving force behind the bill is to keep people in Connecticut, but we hope to alleviate the debt problem that many young people are facing,” Witkos said.
The bill already enjoys strong bipartisan support, but faces a challenge from private colleges and universities pushing to be included.
“Private and independent schools ask, ‘Why are they excluded?’ But it’s not a question of exclusion, it’s a question of success, ”said Witkos. “We can’t bite more than we can chew, so we should start slowly with the schools the state pays for. We can always extend it to higher degrees and private schools later. ”
The program would be financed by a general fund credit. The Office of Tax Analysis is currently evaluating the cost.