College tuition at both public and private institutions had exploded, and student loans now exceeded credit card bills or auto loans when it comes to household debt. In fact, Connecticut has the highest student debt per capita in the country, averaging over $30,000 per head. Relatedly, our state is suffering from a brain drain, with highly-skilled graduates leaving Connecticut to start their careers elsewhere. Businesses that have left this state regularly cite the challenge recruiting a talented workforce when explaining their decision to pack their bags.
My co-sponsors and I each represent moderate districts, and we knew that Connecticut couldn’t afford to abolish trillions of dollars of debt with the snap of a finger. So we decided to try something new. We believed that addressing the student loan crisis wasn’t just the right thing to do for young people—it was a necessary component of reviving our economy.
Together, we drafted and passed SB 72, a corporate tax credit for any business that helped to pay off their employees’ student loans. In short, companies that hire recent graduates can reduce their tax liability by helping to pay back the loans of their employees. The credit is capped at $5,250 per year, to sync with a federal tax benefit available to employers. Republicans loved the bill because it cut taxes for businesses. Democrats loved it because it helped young people afford their college degrees and stay in Connecticut. Realtors helped push it over the finish line, citing evidence that student loan debt delays the purchase of a first home in Connecticut by an average of seven years. SB 72 was approved in the House and Senate on a bipartisan basis.