Maryland’s Congressmen Have Varying Support for College Affordability Legislation
Representative Andy Harris of Maryland speaking at the 2013 Conservative Political Action Conference.
The state of Maryland may be dominated by Democrats, but that doesn’t mean they always get along. The Democratic party is no stranger to disagreements, and those differing views reveal themselves in how Democrats approach student loan debt. That’s not to say that most disagree something has to be done about the $1.4 trillion in student debt, but some less so than others, according to new research from LendEDU.
The biggest disconnect on how to solve the student loan debt problem in Maryland stems from Rep. Andy Harris, the lone Republican from District 1. Of the six major recent student loan and college affordability initiatives, he backed only one: low student loan interest rates. In short, he lacks the proactivity of his Democratic colleagues when it comes to student loans. Rep. Harris sits on the House Appropriations Committee, and he is focused on decreasing the federal government’s debt. With that said, it shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise that he doesn’t support expanding Pell Grants or student loan forgiveness which would undoubtedly cost the government. Recently graduated student borrowers from Harris’ district have around $29,000 average student debt, and these borrowers default at a rate of 6.68 percent.
Rep. Steny Hoyer from District 5 is another outlier in Maryland as well as in his party. Hoyer, who is a Democrat, backs low student loan interest rates, Pell Grants, and federal student loan refinancing, but he’s hasn’t expressed support for student loan forgiveness or improving financial literacy. The long-time senator did play a role in crafting the Student Aid & Fiscal Responsibility Act which orchestrated the government takeover of student loans. Rep. Hoyer’s district borrowers who recently graduated owe roughly $27,000 on average.
The majority of Maryland Democrats have supported the majority of the six recent major college affordability initiatives, but Rep. John Delaney isn’t one of them. Backing four of the six initiatives, he has not shown support for improving financial literacy. Many lawmakers believe student loan debt could be reduced if borrowers understood what they were getting into in the first place. Rep. Delaney is a believer that people need access to affordable student loans. He backs low interest rates on student loans, but he doesn’t lend any explicit support for tax breaks on those loans.
The biggest supporter of student loan reform in Maryland is by far Rep. Elijah Cummings from District 7. He has backed all six of the major initiatives and also helped introduce the College Cost Reduction and Access Act aimed at capping monthly loan payments and increasing the size of Pell Grant awards to help more low-income families earn a college degree. On higher education, Rep. Cummings commented, “my colleagues and I in the Congress are doing everything we can to keep the high cost of college from acting as a roadblock.”
The congressional report by LendEDU defined several student loan and college affordability initiatives that were deemed to be especially prevalent today. These included keeping interest rates low, improving or expanding the Pell Grant program, offering federal student loan refinancing, offering student loan forgiveness, providing tax breaks to student borrowers, and improving the financial literacy of student borrowers.
Image Copyright Gage Skidmore