TRENTON - Governor Phil Murphy announced support for S2723/A4183, a bill introduced by Senator Paul Sarlo and Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker to establish a loan forgiveness program for New Jersey residents who graduate with degrees in the fields of science, technology, engineering, or math (STEM).
“I applaud Senator Sarlo and Assemblyman Zwicker for taking action to allow our STEM graduates the chance to offset some of their loans, stay in New Jersey, and contribute to our local economy,” Governor Murphy said. “While this legislation is still in the very early stages, I look forward to reviewing it when it reaches my desk. It is through initiatives like these that New Jersey can fuel growth and reclaim our state’s position in the innovation economy.”
In May, Governor Murphy announced his goal to work with the Legislature to pass legislation establishing the STEM Loan Forgiveness Program. According to program requirements, after an employee has worked four years in a designated high-growth STEM occupation in New Jersey, the New Jersey Higher Education Student Assistance Authority (HESAA) will redeem eligible qualifying student loan expenses for up to four years. HESAA would provide eligible employees with $1,000 annually to defray outstanding loans. Employers would be required to at least match this award – or otherwise partner with the State – to provide a total benefit worth at least $8,000 over the four-year period.
“A long-term strategy to expand NJ’s innovation economy depends upon training and retaining the best and brightest of the next generation of our high-tech 21st century workforce,” said Assemblyman Zwicker. “This initiative acknowledges that we must ensure that these students, regardless of their economic status, receive the training they need while reducing their financial burden. In return, our innovation ecosystem grows and our businesses have access to the finest NJ has to offer.”
“Science and technology are at the vanguard of a growing economy, providing the research and development that will help sustain job growth and continued economic growth,” said Senator Paul Sarlo, the chairman of the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee. “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. A loan redemption program for graduates who are working in high-growth STEM jobs will be an incentive for them to stay here in New Jersey – which is where we want them to be. We want our high-tech graduates to find jobs in New Jersey and we want them to remain here where they can contribute to advancements in science and technology and to the state’s economic growth.”
“In a rapidly-evolving economy that relies more and more on science, technology and math, we need to give students the education and the skills they need for their jobs and careers. STEM is vitally important to the progress we make and to our economic future,” said Senate President Steve Sweeney. “It leads to new discoveries, new technologies and new opportunities. We want to stay in the forefront of the high-tech sector by keeping the students who have graduated into the private sector here in New Jersey. Easing the burden of college debt is an investment in jobs, the economy and our ability to retain the highly-skilled workers we need.”
“There continues to be a demand for highly skilled workers especially in STEM fields. Meanwhile we are losing many of our best and brightest to other states, which makes us less competitive,” said Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin. “We have to retain some of that brain power so we can build up our workforce and provide the talent needed for our tech industry and our economy to grow.”
Eligibility requirements for the STEM Loan Forgiveness Program include:
- Being a resident of the State of New Jersey and maintaining residency during participation in the program;
- Having a degree from an approved STEM degree program at a New Jersey institution of higher education;
- Working full-time in an approved high-growth STEM occupation at a New Jersey employer for a minimum of four years before applying to the program;
- After applying for the program, working for an additional one to four years of employment in an approved high-growth STEM occupation at a New Jersey employer;
- Receiving annual certification from a current employer to attest the employee is working in an approved high-growth STEM occupation; and
- Having an outstanding balance with a State or Federal student loan program and not being in default on any student loan.