Structural Inequalities in the Opportunity Maine Tax Credit

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Policy in Brief:

Complexities in the Opportunity Maine Tax Credit arise depending on when you attend school, when you attend school, and the type of degree you earned. These complexities lead to inequities between individuals who receive benefits from the program: between women and men and between people working in fields in or out of their majors.

Fascinating Features:

The Opportunity Maine Tax Credit was designed as an incentive to boost the economic outlook of the state and to correct the state’s aging demographics by creating an incentive for young people to live and work in Maine. It has been touted by employers as a great way to attract highly educated employees to Maine companies.

Women earn 57% of all bachelor’s degree but only 20% of engineering, computer science, and physics degrees are earned by women. Women of color constitute only 5% of the national science and engineering workforce. Women also make up 77% of the workforce of primary and secondary education teachers.

By limiting the full benefits of the Opportunity Maine Tax Credit to STEM majors, gender inequities arise in the program.

Often, women pursue careers that require education beyond the 4-year degree. Women hold 77% of all master’s degrees in education and 62.7% of master’s degrees in social and behavioral sciences.

By limiting the full benefits of the Opportunity Maine Tax Credit to bachelor’s degrees, gender inequities arise in the program.

Further complicating how student loans are reimbursed through this program, oftentimes what you go to school for is not the field where you work. Many individuals in humanities disciplines go on to work in careers in construction inspecting, digital media, IT, and other STEM fields alongside individuals with STEM degrees. At the same time, engineering majors become restauranteurs, call center employees, sales associates, or K-8 teachers alongside individuals with humanities and social science degrees.

By limiting the full benefits of the Opportunity Maine Tax Credit to STEM majors, inequities occur in individuals working in the same positions, sometimes in the same company.

Conclusion:

The following are proposed revisions to the Opportunity of Maine Tax Credit based on the principles of the program to boost Maine’s economy and attract and retain young people.

  1. Expand the refundable tax credit to include both STEM and non-STEM programs acknowledging that STEM degrees are largely earned by men and that individuals with non-STEM degrees often work in STEM fields.
  2. Eliminate the disparity between undergraduate and graduate eduction refundable tax credits acknowledging that there is a difference based on gender regarding the need for a graduate degree in specific occupations.
  3. Eliminate the need for individuals to have been Maine residents while attending school if they earned their degree prior to 2016.
  4. Eliminate the requirement that degrees earned outside of Maine do not qualify if they were earned before 2016.
  5. Expand the eligibility for the refundable tax credit to individuals regardless of when they earned their degree.

Dig Deeper:

Soucier, Daniel S. “Structural Inequalities in the Opportunity Maine Tax Credit.” Maine Policy Review 29.1 (2020): 62-64.

From MPR’s Archive:

Keller, Thomas E. “STEM Education Policy in Maine and the Nation.” Maine Policy Review 21.1 (2012): 112 -119.

Reilly, Catherine. “Loan Forgiveness and Repayment: Can They Increase Education Attainment in Maine?” Maine Policy Review 14.1 (2005): 64 -69.

Trostel, Philip A. “Economic Prosperity in Maine: Held Back by the Lack of Higher Education.” Maine Policy Review 11.2 (2002): 30-43.

Related Resources:

Opportunity Maine Tax Credit Website