Press Release

Ehlers joins Wolf in introducing interest-free loan bill – Congressmen tout proposal to increase math, science education

By SpaceRef Editor
April 12, 2005
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WASHINGTON – Concerned by the lack of U.S. students who choose to pursue degrees and careers in math, science, engineering and technology, Congressman Vernon J. Ehlers Tuesday joined with fellow Congressman Frank Wolf in introducing legislation that would pay up to $10,000 in student-loan interest for students who agree to commit at least five years to teaching or working in related fields.

The Math and Science Incentive Act of 2005 was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives Tuesday by Wolf, R-Va., with Ehlers, R-Mich., as the legislation’s primary co-sponsor. House Science Committee Chairman Sherwood Boehlert, R-N.Y., also co-sponsored the House legislation, while Sen. John Warner, R-Va., said he planned to introduce companion legislation in the U.S. Senate.

The bill would establish a new program through the U.S. Department of Education, under which the government would pay the interest on a student’s loans in exchange for five years in a job related to science, technology, engineering or math (STEM), including teaching in those fields at any level. The government would pay the interest on the loan starting at the beginning of the service requirement up to a maximum of $10,000 per person.

“While the United States is still reaping the benefits of past investments in research and development and education, we are depleting the supply of intellectual capital,” Ehlers said Tuesday at a press conference announcing the introduction of the bill. “This comes at a time when the performance of U.S. students in math and science lags behind their international peers. Clearly, we must recommit ourselves to leadership in science, technology, mathematics and engineering. This legislation puts us on the path toward ensuring that we have STEM teachers and workforce professionals in place to ensure economic and national security for future generations.”

Ehlers, chairman of the Environment, Standards and Technology Subcommittee of the House Science Committee, said he is hopeful that the House and Senate can quickly act on the legislation and that President Bush will sign the bill so that the program can provide students with more incentives to study in the STEM fields.

“Countries such as China and India are rapidly overtaking the United States when it comes to technology and innovation,” Ehlers said. “Only by encouraging our students to seek careers in these fields can we hope keep our country competitive in the world marketplace.”

The following is Congressman Ehlers’ statement in support of the Math and Science Incentive Act, submitted to the Congressional Record for April 12, 2005:

I rise today in support of the Math and Science Incentive Act of 2005, which today was introduced by Rep. Wolf.  I thank him and his staff for their work on this important legislation.  I am very pleased to join him as the lead cosponsor, and pledge that I will work with Rep. Wolf to move this legislation through the House.

A number of developments in recent years have fueled concerns that world technology leadership could shift from the United States to other countries.  In today’s global economy, American manufacturers and other businesses rely on innovation to stay competitive.  For the United States to remain a prosperous country, we must maintain our technological leadership in the world.

Our knowledge-based economy is driven by constant innovation.  The foundation of innovation lies in a dynamic, motivated, and well-educated workforce equipped with math and science skills.  An understanding of scientific and mathematical principles, a working knowledge of computer hardware and software, and the problem-solving skills developed by courses in science, technology, engineering and math are now basic skill requirements for many entry-level positions or for admission to college majors.  In fact, I fully expect that all of the jobs of the future will require a basic understanding of the concepts and principles of math and science. 

Unfortunately, we are continuing to see disturbing trends in American student performance on basic math and science tests.  The recent Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) and Trends in International Math and Science Study (TIMSS) highlight the shortcomings of current K-12 science and math studnets in the United States when compared to other developed countries. 

We have also seen that fewer students are pursing degrees in math and science.  This should be of particular concern when we consider the large educational and workforce development investments made by emerging economies with huge populations, such as China, India and Russia.

We must encourage young women to pursue degrees in math and science.  While the percentages of women holding baccalaureate degrees in biological and physical sciences closely mirrors that of their male counterparts, recent statistics from the National Center for Education Statistics show that women are underrepresented in engineering and computer science baccalaureate degrees.

The Math and Science Incentive Act of 2005 is a direct response to the needs I have outlined.  The bill will help recruit and retain direly needed science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) teachers and workforce professionals.  It allows the Secretary of Education to pay up to $10,000 in interest on undergraduate loans for those who qualify and agree to enter into a five-year service agreement with the Secretary.

Clearly, we must recommit ourselves to leadership in science, technology, mathematics and engineering.  This legislation puts us on the path toward ensuring that we will have STEM teachers and workforce professionals in place.

SpaceRef staff editor.