Financial Committee Blocks Education Funding for Maine Students

June 26, 2015

For Immediate Release: Friday, June 26, 2015
Contact: Adrienne Bennett, Press Secretary, 207-287-2531

AUGUSTA – On Thursday, members of the Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee killed a bill to fund an important initiative to provide zero to low-interest loans to Maine students studying in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, also known as STEM.

“These Democrats who are controlled by the Maine People’s Alliance say they support education, but turn around and refuse to fund this affordable education priority,” said Governor LePage. “Young families in our state can’t afford to buy homes because they are drowning in education debt. Maine is already the oldest state in the country. This bill would have helped us to keep young people in Maine and helped those young people be financially solvent.”

Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics jobs in Maine are projected to grow 6.5 percent by 2022, nearly three times the rate for all occupations. And the gain of these jobs in STEM occupations will account for nearly half of the expected net job growth in Maine.

Sen. Amy Volk (R-Scarborough) sponsored the bill, L.D. 1360, An Act to Increase the Number of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Professionals in Maine. The purpose of this bill was to increase the number of students pursuing graduate and undergraduate degrees in the fields of science, computer science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Additionally, it would have encouraged students to return to Maine to live and work.

According to The Institute for College Access and Success, the average student loan debt for the Class of 2013 in Maine was nearly $30,000 and it is increasing at an alarming, accelerated pace. As the US debt has ballooned to over $18 trillion, many young people are burdened with an extra $1.2 trillion dollars of student debt, borrowing from their futures and contributing to another potential debt crisis.

L.D. 1360 would have created the Maine STEM Loan Program withinthe Finance Authority of Maine (FAME) Loans of up to $7,500 per year with varying interest rates would have been provided to participating students depending on their future employment: loans with zero percent interest rates would have been available to students who remain in or return to the state and work in the fields of science, computer science, technology, engineering and mathematics upon graduation; loans bearing an interest rate of 5 percent would have been available to students who remain in or return to Maine upon graduation but are not employed in the fields of science, computer science, technology, engineering and mathematics; and loans bearing an interest rate of 8 percent annually would have been available for students who live and work outside the state upon graduation.

“If we want a prosperous Maine we need an educated, skilled workforce, but we need families in our communities who can afford to buy homes, to donate to nonprofits, to shop in our stores and to invest in our businesses,” said Governor LePage.