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STEM Financial Advantage

01/26/2011

MCLA graduates who major in one of the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering or Math) fields - including those who go on to become teachers who specialize in one of these disciplines - may qualify to have their student loans forgiven through the Commonwealth Covenant Fund if they continue to live and work in Massachusetts.

Designed to make the Commonwealth a national leader in the STEM fields and to develop a dynamic workforce by keeping talented professionals in Massachusetts, the Fund will enhance students' ability to pursue degrees in these sectors while enabling the Commonwealth to strengthen its economy by expanding its STEM-related industries.

According to Carrie Dempsey, assistant director of financial aid at MCLA, those who graduate after Dec. 1, 2007, from a public institution of higher education in Massachusetts may qualify for a tuition loan repayment after working for a year in the Commonwealth, in their chosen STEM field.

"They have to have completed at least one year of employment in a STEM field in the Commonwealth," Dempsey explained. "Their income cannot exceed $65,000 annually for a single tax filer and $80,000 per year for joint filers. In addition, their Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) during their senior year at college should document family income at or below 300 percent of the federal poverty level within that year.

"They have to provide a loan statement document, showing their loan balance and their account number, and that their payments are current," Dempsey added.

Successful applicants also must submit a college transcript to show that they earned a 3.0 or better grade point average. However, Dempsey  also encourages those who fall below that 3.0 grade point average requirement to complete the registration process. Should the criteria change, they may become eligible at a later date, she said.

Graduates who meet all of the eligibility requirements will have the amount granted to them applied to the principle of their loans. With the average MCLA student taking out between $17,000 and $18,000 in loans throughout their college career, the savings in their indebitness could be considerable.

"I think it's a great program for students to reduce their loan debt after they graduate so they can start out fresh in the world," Dempsey said. "And, it's a great program to encourage students to stay in Massachusetts after they graduate as the state continues to strengthen its economy."

Since 2004, MCLA has seen steady growth in the number of undergraduates who study to enter a STEM career. Currently, nearly 500 MCLA students are enrolled in STEM majors - an increase of 100 from the previous year.

Majors at MCLA that qualify under the Commonwealth Covenant Fund include biology, chemistry, computer science and information systems, mathematics and physics.

Students must register to find out if they are eligible. They may begin the registration process while seniors in college or upon their graduation.

For more information, go to www.mcla.edu/Academics/academicresources/financialaid or www.mass.gov/covenantfund.