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MSU students testify on legislation that reduces student debt for graduates living in Michigan

February 18, 2015
<p>Cutis Hertel Jr., D-East Lansing, poses for a photo Jan. 20, 2015, at the State of the State Address at the Capitol in Lansing, Michigan. Emily Nagle/The State News</p>

Cutis Hertel Jr., D-East Lansing, poses for a photo Jan. 20, 2015, at the State of the State Address at the Capitol in Lansing, Michigan. Emily Nagle/The State News

Photo by Emily Nagle | The State News

MSU students testified before the Michigan Senate Finance Committee in support of a bill introduced by State Sen. Curtis Hertel Jr., D-East Lansing, that could grant tax credits to graduate students that decide to stay in the state.

The bill in discussion states that graduates who choose to stay in the state would be eligible to claim an income tax credit equal to the 50 percent of the amount paid on student loans during the tax year.

The graduate would need to present proof of residency, employment and payments made for the student loan.

Associated Students of Michigan State University community liaison Bryn Williams said the bill would alleviate the burden of student loans that many graduates have.

“A lot of my support for this bill comes from the fact that we not only want to alleviate the financial burden on students but we also like to attract more academics to East Lansing and the surrounding areas," Williams said. "Once we graduate from MSU, which we view as our homes for for four years, we have opportunities available in the Greater Lansing Area that are suited to to our highly skilled degrees and we don’t have to leave the state that we grew to love to pursue jobs … that will pay off the debts.”

The bill was introduced by Hertel on Jan. 28.

"Keeping students and their education and their experiences in the state can only bring development and opportunities across the state — something the state will see in return in increase revenues down the line," ASMSU state liaison David Carlisle said.

Hertel also testified before the committee and said the high exodus of students to other cities like Chicago, can be an effect of high student loans and low-paying jobs in the state.

“Our student loan debt situation in today’s graduates is getting out of hands,” Hertel said. “At Michigan State University just down the road in my district, nearly half of all graduates leave campus with some sort of student debt.”

The average student debt in Michigan is $29,583 and 46 percent of 2013 MSU graduates were left with an average debt of $25,821, according to The Institute for College Access and Success.

Hertel also addressed the graduate exodus the state has gone through in the past years.

“Student debt is not the only issue,” Hertel said. “In our state, college graduates are also leaving at an alarming rate after they graduate, taking their knowledge and talent elsewhere.”

The retention of students after graduation will also benefit the state, Hertel said.

“Our Michigan college graduates are one of our state most valuable resources and we need to do what we can to keep them here and help them succeed,” Hertel said. “They should be able to focus on building a career and a life right here in Michigan without being overwhelmed by debt.”

State Senate Finance Committee chair Sen. Jack Brandenburg, R-Mt. Clemens, said he will work with Hertel to move the bill “down the road.”

“I look forward to working with you on it in the future,” Brandenburg said.

As of now, the bill would grant tax credits to graduates from Michigan’s public universities — Hertel said he would support an amendment to include private institutions.

State Rep. Andy Schor, D-Lansing, reintroduced a version of the same bill in the Michigan House of Representatives on Jan. 29.

The bills are modeled after a similar program implemented in Maine, called Opportunity Maine.

“Last year Michigan was the 9th largest state in the country but it was replaced by North Carolina who has a stunning 334,000 new residents — Michigan dropped to 10th,” Brandenburg said. “Somebody’s doing something that we are not doing, so I’m open to all ideas.” 

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