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Murphy proposes state help for STEM tuition

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Gov. Phil Murphy announces the STEM loan forgiveness plan at Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken.
Gov. Phil Murphy announces the STEM loan forgiveness plan at Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken. - ()

Gov. Phil Murphy has unveiled a pair of measures aimed at keeping science, tech, engineering and math college graduates in the state.

His proposed loan forgiveness program, unveiled Tuesday, would mean anyone who’s worked in a STEM-related job in New Jersey for at least four years would receive $8,000 in tuition assistance. Employers and the state would split the covered amount 50/50.

Murphy estimated the annual cost to taxpayers at $12 million and called it “a small down payment for the tremendous overall economic benefit these employees and employers would return.”

Another measure, announced that same day, would enact a paid STEM internship program run by the state Department of Labor and Workforce Development.

As part of the proposed program, the state would reimburse employers for 50 percent of the wages they pay to first-time interns enrolled in New Jersey high schools and colleges.

“Not every student has the financial means to take an unpaid internship,” Murphy said. “This internship program has not only the ability to introduce untapped talent to employers but also to increase the diversity of the STEM workforce, because by definition we will reach folks who otherwise would not have been looking at internships because they couldn’t afford it.”

For the loan forgiveness program, a potential recipient would need to live in New Jersey, have a STEM degree from a state-approved program and work full-time at a “high-growth” STEM occupation in New Jersey for at least four years.

The employer would have to provide the state an annual certification that they’re still employing the recipient.

Anyone who has defaulted on their student loans wouldn’t be eligible.

Senate Budget and Appropriations Chairman Paul Sarlo, D-36th District, one of two legislators at the governor’s press event at Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, said he was on board with the proposal. Sarlo said he and Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker, D-16th District, would sponsor legislation to include it in the state’s fiscal 2019 budget.

“The question is not how much is this going to cost us,” he said. “The question should be how much are we going generate?”

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Daniel J. Munoz

Daniel J. Munoz

Daniel Munoz covers politics and state government for NJBIZ. You can contact him at dmunoz@njbiz.com.

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