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Mayoral candidates need to talk about college affordability

Baltimore can't succeed if its residents can't afford higher education.

Anyone running for mayor of Baltimore must take notice of last week's op-ed "Preparing the whole student for college" (Nov. 19) and the painful lessons of the "Building a Bright Future: Understanding College Readiness in Baltimore City Public Schools" report.

The report isn't surprising: students aren't graduating with the necessary financial knowledge or skills to manage their limited resources while they pursue higher education; parents and students find the college financing process daunting with the financial burden overwhelming. Our city cannot be economically vibrant with families overburdened by debt.

I hope the mayoral candidates are prepared to present their plans for developing a financially inclusive city. Chief among their recommendations should be the expansion of successful programs like the Baltimore CASH (Creating Assets, Savings & Hope) Campaign's financial coaching program or free tax preparation services connecting working families to savings tools and navigating complex financial documents like the Free Application for Federal Student Aid.

Baltimore's renaissance hinges on its ability to successfully graduate students who not only are academically prepared to meet the challenges of higher education but who also have the financial readiness to absorb what is becoming one of America's largest burdens: student loan debt.

Courtney Bettle, Baltimore

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