It costs a lot of money to go to college. Ask anyone in Illinois who graduated in the past few years or who is in school now. Student debt is something that can pose a challenge not just to individuals in the here and now. It can put a major crimp on future aspirations well into the future. It has become a concern of major political proportions right on up to the federal level. And leaders are finding themselves challenged to come up with creative solutions.

As we have observed in previous posts, it doesn’t help that student loans are handled differently than other loans when debt relief is being sought. Through the protections offered by Chapter 13 or Chapter 7 bankruptcy, many other unsecured debts can be erased in a relatively short period of time so that individuals can regain their financial ground. Student loans, though, tend to be very difficult to see discharged.

It is in this environment that lawmakers in Maryland are considering a proposal to allow Montgomery County, one of the state’s wealthiest by per-capita income, to create a loan authority. And under that authority, the county would be able to employ its borrowing power to help residents refinance student loans at much lower interest rates.

Proponents of the plan say it would serve as a great incentive to attract college graduates to the county or keep those already living there where they are.

If lawmakers go along with it, Maryland will join just five other states that have passed similar bills in recent years. They could be joined shortly by two more. And experts say that recent guidance from the Treasury Department loosening previous restrictions on state lending could open the door to tax-exempt bond financing of the effort.

Experts stress the programs are not a panacea. They say consumers considering taking advantage of them need to be sure they understand exactly what they are signing up for before making any decision. The same goes for anyone facing any kind of debt trouble. And checking with an experienced bankruptcy attorney is one step worth taking.