Friday, June 29, 2007
Gov. John Baldacci of Maine (D) will sign into law the Act to Allow a Tax Credit for College Loan Repayments on July 1. The law is commonly referred to as Opportunity Maine, which is also the name of the group that pushed the proposal. It provides a tax credit to reimburse educational loan payments for any Maine resident who earns an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in Maine and who lives, works, and pays taxes in Maine after earning that degree. Qualifying graduates will be reimbursed for up to $2,100 per year through tax credits.
The first law of its kind, Opportunity Maine is a “cutting edge, comprehensive program,” in the words of Tony Giampetruzzi, communications director of Opportunity Maine. In a state where brain drain is a major concern, the legislation is especially welcome. According to a report done by the School of Economics of the University of Maine, the state lags behind the New England average of earned bachelor’s degrees by 23 percent and the majority of students who attain a higher degree leave the state upon graduation.
The Opportunity Maine organization was created in reaction to campaigning against a referendum that would legalize discrimination based on sexuality. Andrew Bossie, former student body president of the University of Southern Maine was active in that campaign. He and his friends, who sacrificed their time and GPAs to defeat the bill, wished they could have spent that time building rather than merely maintaining basic rights in their state.
As students, the first idea that came to them had its basis in personal experience. It was not uncommon to find a seat empty that had once been occupied by an eager student because they simply could not afford to continue, according to Bossie.
“Some of us were working two or three jobs on top of our full-time class schedules just to make ends meet,” he told Campus Progress. Although standing outside during a Maine winter to collect signatures was demanding work, Bossie believes that it was worth the effort and encourages other young people to take action. “If there is something that you want to change, find those that also want to create change and just do it. Sure, it won’t be easy, but no serious change is.”