The Legislature will consider my bill to help Mainers stay in the state after college.

A post-secondary degree is an increasingly important credential, but college costs pose a great obstacle for many young people.

Student debt eats up a large portion of many young workers’ incomes. The average college graduate incurs more than $26,000 in student loan debt, according to the U.S. Department of Education. Average student debt in Maine is even higher, at $29,352.

The Maine Educational Opportunity Tax Credit offers reimbursement to college graduates or their employers for student loan payments. The graduate must have earned an associate or bachelor’s degree in Maine and must work in Maine after school.

My bill will expand eligibility for the tax credit to Mainers who went to school outside the state because their degree programs were not available here. We want to make it easier for Mainers who want to return home after school to do so.

For example, pharmacy and veterinary degrees weren’t offered in Maine until recently. Students who wanted to pursue careers in those fields had to leave Maine to do so. These students haven’t been eligible for the tax credit even when they returned to Maine to work.

We’re likely to see similar situations as new career fields evolve. Let’s get ahead of the curve and provide incentives for Mainers to establish their careers and lives back home.

Rep. Catherine NadeauD-Winslow