June 4, 2009
Cummings introduces maritime education bill
Congressman Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.), Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation, has introduced H.R. 2651, the Maritime Workforce Development Act. It would create a recruitment, training, and student loan program to attract the next generation of workers to jobs in the maritime industry.
"Many of the men and women who comprise our maritime industry will soon be entering retirement, and it is important that we have the tools and resources in place to bring in the next generation of mariners," Congressman Cummings said. "The Maritime Workforce Development Act seeks to improve the current system and ensure that individuals seeking to enter or advance in the maritime field are able to afford tuition for training programs."
Mariners rarely enroll in traditional 2- or 4-year educational programs. Instead they take frequent, multi-week courses designed to certify them for specific new qualifications. The unique structure of these programs is not easily served by existing loan programs, leaving many unable to afford the costly tuition.
The Maritime Workforce Development Act would authorize $60 million over six years to create a maritime-focused student loan program through which individuals can receive up to $60,000 in loans over the course of their lifetime.
Recipients of the loans would be required to maintain satisfactory progress and be required to repay their loans within ten years.
The bill would also authorize $60 million over six years to enable the Department of Transportation to award grants to maritime training institutions for mariner recruitment, training, and retention.
"The maritime industry is an essential component of our nation's commerce and economy, and we cannot ignore the growing threat of a shortage in qualified maritime labor," Congressman Cummings said. "We cannot allow this problem to continue to grow as a result of individuals being denied access to maritime training due to income levels, and H.R. 2651 takes the first step in ensuring that we don't."