Most Macalester students will graduate with student debt. According to the Common Data Set, 60 percent of the class of 2012 took out loans while in school. A new bill currently making its way through committees in the Minnesota State Legislature aims to make things easier for students with debt.
The loan debt of students graduating from colleges in Minnesota in 2011 was the third highest of any state. The average student loan debt in the state was $29,793 and 71 percent of all graduates were in debt, according to the Project on Student Debt, an initiative of the Institute of College Access and Success.
This year, the Minnesota is considering legislation to lessen the financial burden on indebted college graduates. The proposed legislation would provide an income tax credit to anyone who graduated from a school in Minnesota with student debt and chooses to live in Minnesota after graduation.
The tax credit is intended to encourage students who graduate from colleges in Minnesota to stay in-state by alleviating their tax burden if they are paying back student loans. Proponents of the bill argue that it would benefit the state by helping to keep young college graduates in Minnesota.
The idea for a student loan tax credit in Minnesota began when Taylor Daily, a Minnesota native who goes to Brown University, and a small group of friends formed Opportunity Minnesota. The group advocated for a student loan tax credit similar to one already adopted in Maine. Opportunity Minnesota has since been joined by the Minnesota Public Interest Research Group (MPIRG) in advocating for the bill, Senate File 997, currently before the state legislature.
“We are a small group, so we were very excited when MPIRG decided to advocate for the current bill before the legislature,” Daily said.
Since MPIRG became involved in promoting the legislation, the Macalester chapter of the organization has been especially active in supporting the bill. The chapter’s Economic Justice task-force has tabled in the Campus Center several times to gather signatures in support of the bill that were sent to legislators.
The first committee hearing for the bill, in the Senate Higher Education committee, was on March 14. Two days before, task force members encouraged students to attend and to call the chair of the committee expressing their support.
“On the day of the Senate committee hearing students from across the state gave a press conference in the morning and then attended the meeting, with everybody wearing red to make an intense visual statement about crushing student debt,” Miranda Adams ‘15, one of the Economic Justice task-force leaders, wrote in an email.
Sarah Knispel ‘15, another Economic Justice task-force leader, expressed hope in the potential she sees in Opportunity MN to help ease the burden of college debt on Macalester students.
“I’ve seen the huge amount of mental and emotional anguish [that] financial struggles have caused my friends and people I love,” Knispel said. “I know so many people that Opportunity MN would help out so much, so it’s been really exciting for me to get to push for it.”
Opportunity Minnesota strongly supports the bill being pushed by MPIRG, but they see it as only a first step.
“The current bill does a lot of good in providing tax credits to those [who earn] Associate and Bachelor degrees in Minnesota, but it does not address out-of-state students or students attaining Masters or Professional degrees,” Daily said. “What I would like to see is that this bill passes and that we continue to improve our incentives for keeping talented individuals in Minnesota.”