U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand is proposing several ways to rebuild New York's economy by encouraging students to study math and science while providing incentives for employers to create more well-paying jobs.
Gillibrand, D-N.Y., said Tuesday she hopes the bills are included in two laws that could go before the Senate next year. While her office has yet to sum up the cost of the bills, they are worth the investment, she said.
"Investments in education are some of the wisest investments you can make for the U.S. economy," Gillibrand told reporters during a conference call.
Gillibrand pointed to the difference in the median income of a person with a bachelor's degree and one with a high school degree. For instance, in Warren County, a person with at least a bachelor's degree earns a median salary of $44,000, compared to $26,000 for someone who has a high school degree, according to Gillibrand's office.
Gillibrand's plan aims to entice more people to enroll in state schools and eventually find jobs in New York.
In the Roosevelt Scholars Act, a bill Gillibrand wrote and which has received bipartisan support, someone who pursues a public job would receive full tuition at the undergraduate and graduate levels. To be eligible, students would have to concentrate on critical fields such as science, engineering, public health, information technology, foreign language and law.
Under the Undergraduate Scholarships for Science, Technology Engineering and Mathematics Act, students who pursue math or science could earn up to $2,500 in scholarships per year during their last two years at a state college.
Another proposal would extend federal tax cuts of up to $4,000 on college tuition for an additional year.
Gillibrand said she's also pushing a bill that would award grants from $250,000 to $2.5 million for economic development. The funds would target areas with a cluster of development projects, such as Tech Valley in the Capital Region.
Gillibrand also proposes to fund business incubators, especially those in areas with high unemployment, and provide grants and loans to build new science parks and expand existing ones.
In addition, she wants to provide five-year grants to high schools in areas of high poverty to help them increase the number of their students who attend college.
Other proposals are designed to provide grants to school districts for the creation of engineering programs, and to encourage students to become teachers in science, technology, math or engineering by giving them tax credits to cover 10 percent of their college tuition.
On Tuesday, Gillibrand, along with other lawmakers and education Secretary Arne Duncan, held a summit in Washington D.C. where the proposals were discussed with nearly 80 presidents from New York's colleges and universities.
Ronald Heacock, president of Adirondack Community College, said the proposals would help poor students receive funding for college and give them a place to work once they earned their degrees.
Heacock, who attended the summit, said Gillibrand's plan would help colleges as they search for ways to respond to the economic crisis.
"We tried to get an incubator in the North Country, but we couldn't get the funding to keep it alive," he said.
Gillibrand hopes to include the proposals in two federal bills: the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which will replace the No Child Left Behind Act; and the America Competes Act, which aims to create jobs, said Bethany Lesser, a Gillibrand spokeswoman.