Program Would Pay Down Student Debt of STEM Workers

Feb 21, 2017

A new initiative is aiming to boost Maine’s labor force by paying off workers’ student debt.

The Alfond Leaders program is a partnership between the Finance Authority of Maine and the Harold Alfond Foundation. Under the new three-year, $5.5 million program, about 150 Maine employees in the science, technology, engineering and math fields will be eligible to receive up to $60,000 to pay off student loans.

Alfond Foundation Chairman Greg Powell says the idea of the program is to keep Maine’s graduates in the state, and potentially lure workers away from other states as well.

“We want to help this happen by funding student debt reduction as an incentive to recruit and retain STEM workers,” he says.

Bruce Wagner is the CEO of the Finance Authority of Maine. He says he hopes the new incentive can help businesses recruit and keep new skilled workers.

“This will be a competitive selection process that will encourage the most talented STEM professionals to live and work in Maine,” he says.

The average graduate in Maine owed $30,000 in student debt last year. The state has already worked to help ease that debt for Maine graduates, most notably with the Opportunity Maine tax credit, which lets certain Maine employees write off their student debt payments on their annual income tax forms.