Lawmakers are eyeing a loan forgiveness program mirroring one unveiled by Gov. Phil Murphy in late May, aimed at keeping science, technology, engineering and mathematics college graduates in the state.
The proposed loan forgiveness program, under Senate Bill 2723, could 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 program would annually cost taxpayers $12 million, which at the time he called “a small down payment for the tremendous overall economic benefit these employees and employers would return.”
S2723 passed by a 36-1 vote on Thursday evening, amidst the backdrop of divisive budget talks which dragged legislative sessions deep into the evening.
“We need to support STEM education so that New Jersey’s students are offered the opportunities to acquire the skills and knowledge to compete in the modern economy and we need to do what we can to see that they are not burdened with unmanageable debt,” said Sarlo, an S2723 sponsor.
Another measure, which Murphy also unveiled, calls for a paid STEM internship program. As part of the proposed program, the state would reimburse employers for 50 percent of the wages they pay for 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.”