Thank you for highlighting the importance of the Educational Opportunity Tax Credit (editorial, “Student debt holding back Maine students,” Dec. 7). This initiative, commonly known as Opportunity Maine, is a powerful tool to help our state retain our youth and recruit new people to live and work in Maine. This is exactly the kind of initiative we should invest in today to help build our future workforce.

Opportunity Maine reimburses individuals who earn an associate or bachelor’s degree for educational loan payments through a tax credit for any years in which they live and work in Maine. It also allows businesses that pay employees’ education loans as an employee benefit to claim the tax credit, providing a strong incentive to expand or locate businesses in Maine.

Under the Opportunity Maine program, eligible individuals can receive an annual benefit of $2,100 to $5,500 to pay back their college loans. This is one of the best college affordability programs in the nation.

Unfortunately, very few Mainers have taken advantage of Opportunity Maine. More must be done to inform students about this great opportunity. That is why I introduced a bill last year to provide Finance Authority of Maine with $22,000 annually to carry out a targeted marketing campaign.

I am disappointed that the administration chose to defund this marketing initiative. Maine’s student debt load remains among the highest in the nation. Our higher degree attainment lags behind the national rate, and it is estimated that more than 200,000 Mainers have some college education but no degree.

I will continue to fight for this initiative. We must focus on strategies to recruit young people to attend college and to live and work in Maine. If we don’t help our workforce gain the education and skills it needs, Maine will struggle to attract the high-growth, high-wage jobs necessary to grow our economy.

Rep. Gay Grant, D-GardinerHouse District 59

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