You don’t need me to tell you that college is expensive (and getting more so). To cover the cost, students are taking out staggering amounts of student loans that leave them, in some cases, with a college degree in one hand and a pseudo-mortgage payment in the other.
Needless to say, it’s hard for students to get a financial leg up if they’re throwing a disproportionate amount of their income at their student loans for the first 10 (or 20 or 30) years after they graduate. In Colorado, the state Legislature has come up with a novel proposal for how to help new graduates clear the obstacle of student loans while also building up the state’s talent pipeline in high-need areas.
In short, the state wants to give STEM (science, technology, math and engineering) businesses a tax credit of up to $200,000 a year if those businesses help their workers pay off student loans, up to a maximum of $5,000 per employee per year. There are a few caveats about what employees are eligible (including that it’s limited to workers making less than $60,000 a year), but it sounds like an interesting, win-win way to help students and the state’s economy.
While there’s no doubt that a student’s academic readiness for college plays a huge role in whether he will persist through to graduation, we shouldn’t underestimate the financial barriers to completion as well. Programs like the Colorado proposal not only help students with their loans but also provide incentives that can help align the college experience with the needs of the workforce.