Cuomo Proposes Plan To Boost Top High School Students

New York State Gov. Andrew Cuomo has proposed an $8 million plan for the 2014-15 academic school year that would give the top 10 percent of high school seniors full tuition to SUNY or CUNY colleges.

The stipulation is that those students must declare a major within the STEM field — science, technology, engineering and math — as well as agree to stay and work in New York State for five years upon graduation.

“The future of the economy is in STEM jobs — we should be incentivizing our education system to fill those openings,” Cuomo wrote in a tweet.

If passed by the legislature this spring, students entering college this fall will be the first recipients of these STEM scholarships.

Morris Peters, who is a spokesman for the state Division of the Budget, was quoted in the Times Herald Record saying there will be around “2,000 students out of more than 200,000 high school graduates statewide … expected to become the first-year recipients of the scholarships.”

Morris said the plan is to increase the number of recipients to 8,000 by 2018.

Dean of the School of Science at SUNY New Paltz Dan Freedman said the proposal is a great idea that could have a significant impact — principally raising the profile of the school and its STEM programs, which will ultimately attract new students.

Freedman said there is a shortage of trained scientists and engineers in New York — and when considering the number of STEM trained people per capita, New York State falls somewhere in the middle of the pack.

“The economy is an important facor,” Freedman said. “STEM fields are employable.”

With the institution of proposed STEM scholarships, Freedman said the notion is that New York will be able to compete for high tech industries because those businesses will know there is an influx of STEM trained people who will remain in the state to work.

Even before Cuomo’s proposal, New Paltz STEM departments have been expanding.

“Enrollment in the School of Science and Engineering has increased by 75 percent since 2008,” SUNY New Paltz President Donald Christian said. “There are nearly 800 students currently enrolled in the program and  another 250 students in science and math education enrolled in the School of Education.”

In the last four years, both biochemistry and astronomy have been added to the school.

Freedman said for the last 18 months there has been serious discussion surrounding the proposal of adding a mechanical engineering degree that would begin in the fall.

“Students are very interested in STEM fields, and we are  putting more priority on them,” Christian said. “The scholarship program will help us recruit and provide financial support to more top-notch students.”

Along with the addition of the aforementioned degrees, construction on a new science building to be erected on what is currently parking lot 18, is set to begin this semester.

Christian also said the opportunities that the school’s new 3-D printing initiative provides will help in attracting students — in STEM fields and otherwise.

“Our 3-D Printing Initiative represents a unique collaboration across disciplines,” Christian said. “It integrates the College’s strengths in engineering, computer science, technology and the innovation and creativity of the arts.”

Because of its capabilities to offer a more comprehensive learning experience that stretches across disciplines, Freedman said he looks at 3-D printing as a tool that the program can be built around.

3-D printing, advanced techonology that’s also accessible, Freedman said opens the door for the possibility of exploring digital humanities.

Cuomo’s proposal has not yet been passed by the legislature. Freedman said while STEM scholarships will have a positive impact, the logistics of the proposal still need to be worked out, specifically how the required five working years in New York will be mandated.