Go into computers or science, get free student loans

MI offers to wipe out student loan interest for students who pursue in-state careers in computers, engineering, math or science.

Students in Michigan who are planning a career in computers, engineering, math or science are in luck. Newly proposed legislation could wipe out the interest on their student loans if they take a job in the state after graduation and stay with that job for five years, reports the South Bend Tribune.

"I think that any legislation that helps our students is beneficial," said Mike Rotundo, director of financial aid at Northern Michigan University. "Students are typically graduating with more student loan debt due to the rising costs of education around the state and nation as a whole."

Funding a college education is expensive, and student loan costs have risen right along with tuition. The Michigan Higher Education Student Loan Authority reported $1.6 billion in student loans taken out in 2005. That's up from $1.49 billion in 2004.

The Michigan legislature has made similar proposals in the past, such as the Michigan Engineering Incentive (MEI) for students to take out zero-interest loans if they remained in engineering or technology fields in the state. It is unknown whether all the MEI provisions will carry over to the latest proposal.

"Northern Michigan University is a direct loan school, as are most of the Michigan public four-year universities, which precludes involvement in the Michigan Engineering Incentive program," Rotundo said.

If the measure is passed, it would save students an estimated $7,600, based on the average amount of interest accrued in college.

The measure has its critics, however.

"A scholarship program or (reward) incentive may convince students to go into a high-tech field. But the state may be better off giving a $7,000 scholarship rather than $7,600 off the back end. The incentive has to be given more up front. It's a better way to do it." said Kenneth aFridsma, director of financial aid at Grand Valley State University.


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