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Monday, December 22, 2014

GPSA works with the Legislature to push for incentives to keep graduate and professional students in New Mexico after graduation

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The Graduate and Professional Student Association is lobbying for legislation that would grant local businesses tax credits for hiring New Mexico graduates.

GPSA President Marisa Silva said this semester she plans to continue her support for Senate Bill 11 at the session. The bill was introduced to the Legislature during the final week of last year’s session, but never made the Legislative agenda. This year’s bill was introduced in December and is in committee. The GPSA-backed bill would create a tax credit for New Mexico businesses that hire graduates who have a master’s or a doctoral degree in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or (STEM) fields. She said the GPSA lobbying committee has been meeting with the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Timothy Keller (D-Bernalillo).

Silva said 75 percent of STEM graduates and students polled said they want to work in New Mexico, but only 25 percent of students and graduates were able to find a job within the state.

“We’re going to keep these people who love New Mexico and are invested in our economic development,” she said.

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Silva said GPSA is in the beginning stages of funding this semester’s Graduate Scholarship Fund. The fund, which was founded by Silva and executive finance committee chair Sarah Coffey in the fall, gave 20 graduate students $1,000 each in scholarship funds in December. As of now, the fund stands empty. Silva said GPSA is showcasing the scholarship to potential donors, and they said it’s only a matter of time before it finds funding.

As of this week, GPSA is a part of a separate effort to award $280,000 worth of new graduate assistantship lines in conjunction with the Office of Graduate Studies, Silva said. Depending on the assistantship, these lines of support contain 20 hours of salary pay, six or nine credit hours of tuition remission and health insurance. The money will come from a surplus GPSA had last semester, she said. Silva said that when she presented the surplus to graduate and professional students, the majority of those polled wanted to use the money to create new means by which to support students. She said students can apply beginning this week, and preference is given based on financial need. Students must also have a letter of support from their department or college.

“While it’s going to be a little hard now that school has already started, the benefit is that will be food on people’s plates,” she said.

GPSA Council Chair Kris Miranda said he plans to revise the GPSA grants code this semester. Miranda said the grants code is the section of the GPSA bylaws that governs how the organization allocates $100,000 each fiscal year for research and travel grants. Miranda said a committee will work on the revision. He said the revision is an effort to make the code more user-friendly for students applying for a grant. The last time GPSA changed the bylaws substantially was early 2010 or late 2009, Miranda said.

“Since then, we’ve replaced the constitution entirely, we’ve replaced every other section of the bylaws written half from scratch, but the grants code has never really gotten an overhaul,” he said.

Miranda said he’s pushing for a draft of the new code by March, so the council can vote on it in April.