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New Initiatives Making College More Affordable

Posted: January 18, 2017 at 6:13 pm   /   by   /   comments (0)

By Mark Uncapher

Last week Governor Larry Hogan announced his “Student Debt and Tuition Relief Initiative,” along with additional investments in higher education.  His goal has been to make Maryland higher education more attainable.

Yet perhaps even more dramatic on a national scope in making college more affordable are private initiatives to expand the availability of online courses.  Businessman and education reformer Steven Klinsky has championed a national digital library of online college courses, available on a tuition free basis.

Klinsky’s Modern States Education Alliance[1]  combines top quality professors, free online textbooks and credit-granting certifying exams. The Alliance’s “Freshman Year for Free” offers free online courses that can lead to credit. Working with an online joint venture of Harvard and MIT and other course developers, they are producing a top quality, tuition free online course for every one of the traditional freshman college subjects.  Making more credit-granting online courses available makes college far more affordable to students at very little taxpayer cost.

As Klinsky has written: “Online college courses are nothing new. Millions of students have now taken college courses entirely online for the past twenty years, for full academic credit, and from all types of colleges and trade schools. The problem, however, is that — due to the regulatory and “pricing power” structure of accredited post-secondary education — the tuition cost for these online courses has been set every bit as high (or sometimes higher!) than for the same course delivered in the physical classroom.”[2]

Governor Hogan’s proposal includes legislation to make student debt interest payments tax-deductible for all Marylanders earning less than $200,000 per year, funding to cap tuition growth at Maryland colleges and universities at a maximum of two percent, and targeted investments in priority projects at Maryland’s higher education institutions.


“Having a college education is more important now than ever before, but the harsh reality many face today is that earning a college degree often goes hand-in-hand with accumulating crippling college debt,” said Governor Hogan. “We believe that our new Student Debt and Tuition Relief Initiatives will provide much-needed relief from student loan debt, and will help us continue to make college in Maryland more affordable.”

Governor Hogan made the announcement at the University of Maryland, College Park, with education leaders including University of System Maryland Chancellor Dr. Robert Caret.  Chancellor Caret commented: “I thank Governor Hogan for his administration’s continued investment in higher education, and I applaud his efforts to ensure that even more Marylanders have access to the world-class education our universities have to offer.” Governor Hogan’s 2017 Student Debt and Tuition Relief Initiative and higher education investments include:

  • Student Debt Relief Act of 2017:Under this proposal, the vast majority of Marylanders will be able to deduct 100 percent of the interest paid on their student loan debt from their income tax return. Beginning in 2018, Marylanders making less than $200,000 and couples making less than a combined $250,000 per year will not pay any Maryland income tax on their student loan interest payments. This proposal is expected to save Marylanders, many of whom are currently struggling to pay off college debt, $20 million each year.
  • Tuition Relief Initiative:Governor Hogan also announced his plan to make Maryland’s public colleges and universities more affordable by providing major tuition relief for the second year in a row. Maryland universities requested to raise tuition by as much as five percent in 2017, but Governor Hogan announced that the state would partner with these institutions to invest an additional $17.5 million dollars to allow 14 Maryland colleges and universities to cap tuition growth at two percent including all 12 University System of Maryland institutions, as well as Morgan State University and St. Mary’s College.
  • Investing in Higher Education: The governor announced an investment of more than $380 million in the 2017 Capital Budget for higher education projects across the state.

Holding the line on tuition and tuition related debt certainly helps make college more affordable. However using the disintermediating power of network technologies to change how higher education is delivered can also make college even more affordable.

[1] For more information see

[2] How to Really Make College Free, by Steve Klinsky, November 18, 2016