Two bills designed to encourage Connecticut college graduates to remain in state by offering tax credits to offset student loans do not go far enough to address the state's critical workforce needs.
While the intent behind HB 6472 and HB 6891 is good, they should focus on in-demand job needs, CBIA's Michelle Rakebrand told the legislature's Higher Education and Employment Advancement Committee Feb 14.
HB 6472 establishes a personal income tax credit for graduates with a bachelor's or associate's degree equal to the amount of a graduate's student loan payment.
HB 6891 implements a personal income tax deduction in the amount of a graduate's student loan interest.
"We respectfully recommend that such programs be tailored toward the needs of the workforce in an effort to close the state's skills gap and transition graduates into regionally in-demand careers," Rakebrand said.
Connecticut's Department of Labor currently collects labor market information that forecasts regionally in-demand jobs in order to determine the future workforce needs, which can readily be applied to a student loan reimbursement program.
Connecticut is one of just five states that don't offer a student-loan reimbursement program, Rakebrand said.
But all of the 45 states that have such programs offer one or more student loan reimbursements that are specific to the needs of that state’s workforce, she said.
These include providing loan reimbursement for in-demand sectors, regionally underserved areas, and public interest jobs.
"Not focusing a student loan reimbursement program around the needs of a state's workforce would be a missed opportunity for Connecticut as we continue to recover jobs lost from the recession," she said.
"CBIA respectfully requests that the members of this committee consider focusing a state student loan reimbursement program around regionally projected in-demand jobs."