Bill pushes science field

The proposed bill would apply to students who work in math and sciences.

by Cati Vanden Breul

College students who go into math or science after graduation might see the government pay the interest on their student loans if Congress passes a bill introduced Tuesday in the House.

The Math and Science Incentive Act of 2005, introduced by Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va., would apply to students who work in a broad array of math or science professions – including engineers, physicists or teachers – for at least five years, said Dan Scanding, a spokesman for Wolf.

Scanding said the bill was designed to encourage students to enter math and science fields because the United States needs more scientists to stay competitive with other countries.

“We are hearing throughout industry, academia and other areas that we are in desperate need of science and engineering majors,” he said.

China is now graduating four times as many engineers as the United States, according to a February report released by the American Electronics Association.

During a press conference Tuesday, Wolf warned attendees that the United States is losing its leadership role in the field of technology.

“America’s dominance in science and innovation is slipping,” Wolf said. “Unfortunately, there is little public awareness of this trend or its implications for jobs, industry or national security in America’s future.”

Incentives for students to enter math and science fields are needed, said Peter Hudleston, associate dean for student affairs in the Institute of Technology.

“Encouragement to join technological fields is really a good thing because the numbers are not where they should be for the needs,” Hudleston said.

The incentive will be especially helpful to K-12 teachers, he said, because they do not make as much money as other science or math professionals.

“For a long time, there has not been a sufficient number

of well-trained people whose

expertise is in math and science who go into teaching,” Hudleston said.

The cost of a science or math education and the amount of hard work it takes to succeed are deterrents for students who might otherwise want to enter a school like the Institute of Technology, he said.

“The careers are challenging and students have to be prepared to put in a lot of effort, which is rewarding in its own right but any additional incentive is good,” Hudleston said.

Sarah Schmidtke, co-chairwoman of the University’s chemistry department chapter of the Women in Science and Engineering, said the incentive might be just the push some students need.

“A lot of times, as a technology student, you do have a heavy amount of student loans, and the extra incentive will help develop the technology field, definitely,” Schmidtke said.

She said having more U.S. citizens with degrees in science and technology will help ease the outsourcing problem.

“We’re trying to advance technology fields here. For example, with hydrogen fuel research, we need qualified workers,” she said.

Scanding said he hopes the legislation will move through Congress this year.

Sen. John Warner, R-Va., has said he will introduce a partner bill in the Senate.