Bill would improve student debt relief, keep recent STEM grads in-state
COLUMBUS — State Reps. John Patterson (D-Jefferson) and Rick Carfagna (R-Genoa Township) today announced the introduction of House Bill 396, bipartisan legislation to create the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) Degree Loan Repayment Program.
“The Ohio ‘brain drain’ is not a new issue,” Patterson said. “It is a known fact that for years, many STEM students who attend our universities leave Ohio upon graduation for better-paying jobs in other states. This legislation will help incentivize STEM specialists to stay in Ohio, fostering economic development that will benefit our students, our business community and our state as we strive to establish a workforce for the economy of the future.”
As the bill is currently written, eligible participants of the program would include Ohio college or university graduates from 2017 or later who hold an associate’s, bachelor’s, master’s, or doctorate degree in a STEM-related field and are also employed in a STEM-related field in Ohio.
“This legislation addresses a convergence of two problems that are dramatically impacting Ohio’s economy: we are among the worst in the nation for student debt burden, and we continue to hear from the business community about Ohio’s lack of STEM-related skilled labor,” Carfagna remarked. “Ohio has the 10th highest average student debt, while our continued brain drain of STEM talent continues to hamper Ohio employers’ ability to grow facilities and add workers. I’m eager to begin discussions on how we can best retain our skilled talent in a way that provides economic opportunities for our graduates, stimulates STEM entrepreneurship, and grows emerging technology sectors right here in Ohio.”
Under HB 396, the Ohio Department of Higher Education would repay program participants’ student loans by making direct payments to their loan companies. The annual award amounts under the program would be as follows: $2,000 for Associate’s degrees, $4,000 for Bachelor’s degrees, and $8,000 for Master’s degrees and PhDs. Eligible participants could remain in the program for up to five years.
HB 396 has yet to be assigned to a committee.