The Maryland Catholic Conference offers this testimony in SUPPORT of House Bill 360. The Catholic Conference represents the public-policy interests of the three (arch)dioceses serving Maryland, the Archdioceses of Baltimore and Washington and the Diocese of Wilmington, which together encompass over one million Marylanders.
House Bill 360 establishes the Maryland Loan Assistance Repayment Program for Orphans and Foster Care Recipients. Award amounts will be granted in renewable three-year increments, with annual awards in an amount equal to ten percent of the individual’s total college loan debt. Award recipients must have graduated from a Maryland higher education institution and be employed full time by the state, a county or other Maryland municipality.
It is becoming increasingly difficult for anyone to earn a higher education degree without incurring significant debt. In recognition of this, programs have been developed surrounding many professions, such as education and social work, which assist with student loan repayment. These programs are mutually beneficial to employers and employees. Through this proposed program, such a benefit would be extended to two of the more vulnerable, often-marginalized groups of Maryland’s citizens, orphans and foster care recipients. In doing so, the program would provide a mutual benefit to both of those groups and the state and local governmental entities that would employ award recipients.
Orphans and foster care recipients face a host of challenges and, with little or no support system, often can rely only on themselves to surmount those challenges. The establishment of a loan assistance repayment program that is specific to these groups of people would help avail them of opportunities that they may not otherwise have. As it is, a minute portion of orphans and foster youth graduate college. Any additional support that orphans and foster care recipients can count on to encourage and assist them in their pursuit of higher education and subsequent gainful employment would prove to be a prudent investment for our state.
It is for these reasons that the Maryland Catholic Conference urges a favorable report for House Bill 360. Thank you for your consideration.