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  • Thanks to Senator Cardin for bringing local attention to the issue of College Affordability and Student Debt. This issue needs action as well as talk. Sen. Ben Cardin, HCC students talk college affordability Lisa PhilipContact Reporterlphilip@baltsun.com Thirteen Howard Community College students had the chance to talk college affordability with Sen. Ben Cardin Friday morning last week at the Columbia campus. Students discussed their struggles to pay for and complete their degrees while juggling obligations such as parenthood and work. They also asked about financing options for diverse segments of the population like adult learners and veterans. "I'm a working mom, and my oldest child will graduate high school in 2020," student Beth Evans said at the roundtable, which was also attended by the community college's president, Kathleen Hetherington. "I'm worried about paying for my children's college tuition." Cardin, a Democrat from Maryland, told Evans and the other students about existing tools to keep their student debt as low as possible, including a program introduced by President Barack Obama that caps student loan repayments at 10 percent of a person's income. But he also spoke about how much more needs to be done to make college affordable, so that Americans aren't missing out on opportunities to which higher education leads, and so that they're not struggling with debt after graduation. "There are tools," Cardin said. "Are they adequate? Obviously not." The senator has been holding sessions with students on college affordability and student debt for the past two or three years, according to his press secretary, Tim Zink. "I want to listen to the students," Cardin said. "It gives me a chance to put a face on the issue." College affordability should be made a national priority, he said, because student debt impacts the economy. "Those who do go through their training, and end up with that $27,000 worth of debt, or in some cases that $100,000 worth of debt, or $150,000 worth of debt — they then make different life decisions," he said. A study by American Student Assistance suggested that the $1.2 trillion in total student debt may be preventing or dissuading Americans from making major life decisions or purchases, or saving for retirement. "They put off buying a home, because they just can't afford the debt of a mortgage on top of their student debt, or they can't even qualify for a mortgage because of their student debt," Cardin said. "Or they don't invest in a business because they just can't afford to. Or they don't start a family, even though they would like to start a family." Nearly 70 percent of bachelor's degree recipients leave school with debt, according to government data. The average amount of student debt for a Maryland graduate of a four-year, public or private college is $27,457, according to the Institute for College Access and Success. Cardin pointed out that community colleges are a great value compared to the high cost of four-year schools, and praised Howard Community College for its program offerings. Attending Howard Community College full-time during the 2015 to 2016 school year costs $4,624, compared to $11,006 at University of Maryland-Baltimore County, or $45,200 at Loyola University Maryland. But Cardin lamented the fact that some students graduate two-year programs with debt, or can't afford to attend them in the first place. "This is Howard County, one of the strongest counties in the country," he said. "And there are people here who want to go to college and can't. They can't come here." The students who graduate from community college with debt are more likely than other students to default on their loans, according to a recent analysis by the Association of Community College Trustees. The study showed that community college students defaulted at a rate nearly 7 percent higher than the overall student population, three years after entering repayment. Cardin said he supports President Obama's push to make community colleges tuition-free. And his vision, he said, is to go even further to providing debt-free tuition to four-year colleges, in exchange for service after graduation in high-need areas, such as teaching or nursing. At the end of the roundtable, one student asked how she could help. "How can I help this get through? Because I have friends who cannot afford college," said Pooja Singh. "You can help just by telling your story and trying to get that out there," Cardin said.

  • I am sharing with you a concern that I have about our county and its leadership to preserve and protect our environment. The County Executive has proposed repealing the Storm Water Remediation Fee for Howard County and our County Council will be considering the proposal at its Jan. 19 meeting. Maryland has about 10,000 miles of streams and rivers and about 40% of them have been judged poor or polluted. That's a stream of pollution that would run from here to Los Angeles -- and keep on going another 1,000 miles further! Storm Water Remediation is a federal mandate so eliminating the fee will mean a cut back in other County services. One of those at-risk programs is the READY program which employs youth in the summer, many of whom work on storm water remediation! Following is a draft of a message that you may want to send as an email to our County Council members expressing your concern. Of course, feel free to state your concern in your own words. Also, below I have attached a link to an online petition created by PATH that you can sign and send. Finally, if you need an email for the county council members, there are as follows: District Council Member Email Phone District 1 Jon Weinstein JWeinstein@HowardCountyMD.gov (410) 313-3110 District 2 Dr. Calvin Ball CBBall@HowardCountyMD.gov (410) 313-2001 District 3 Jen Terrasa JTerrasa@HowardCountyMD.gov (410) 313-3108 District 4 Mary Kay Sigaty MKSigaty@HowardCountyMD.gov (410) 313-2001 District 5 Greg Fox GFox@HowardCountyMD.gov (410) 313-2001 Dear County Council members, I am asking you to please vote against CB 52, the Stormwater Fee Repeal Bill. The current stormwater fee is a progressive way to address harmful runoff into the Chesapeake Bay, and is not an unnecessary burden to taxpayers. The fee supports programs such as the READY Program (created by PATH, the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay, and the County) to address stormwater remediation and employ and develop Howard County youth. There are many priorities this year and in the years to come that will be critical to the health and success of our county that the general fund supports, such as increasing educational opportunities, expanding transportation for seniors and other residents of the county, and ensuring the availability of affordable housing for current and future residents. Let's keep the general fund strong by keeping the Stormwater Fee intact. Thank you for your support!