Section 35EE. There shall be established and set up on the books of the commonwealth a separate fund to be known as the Commonwealth Covenant Fund, to make loan payments on behalf of graduates of Massachusetts public institutions of higher education who are employed in the areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics hereinafter referred to as STEM. The fund shall be administered by the state treasurer, in consultation with the board of trustees. No expenditure from the fund shall cause the fund to be in deficiency at the close of a fiscal year. Monies deposited in the fund that are unexpended at the end of the fiscal year shall not revert to the General Fund and shall be available for expenditure in the subsequent fiscal year.
There shall be established a board of trustees consisting of the state treasurer, who shall serve as chair, the president of the University of Massachusetts, and 16 members, 1 of whom shall be appointed by the senate president, 1 of whom shall be appointed by the speaker of the house of representatives, 1 of whom shall be appointed by the minority leader of the senate, 1 of whom shall be appointed by the minority leader of the house of representatives, and 12 of whom shall be appointed by the state treasurer, at least 1 of whom shall be from each of the following fields:— biotechnology; healthcare; computers and mathematics; life, physical and social sciences; architecture and engineering; principals of public high schools; and presidents of state universities. Of the members appointed by the state treasurer, one third shall be appointed for 1-year terms, one third shall be appointed for 2-year terms and one third shall be appointed for 3-year terms. After the initial terms are served, all terms shall be for 3 years and board members may be reappointed in perpetuity.
Subject to appropriation, the commonwealth shall deposit not more than $4,000,000 annually into the fund. The fund may accept private contributions. Private contributions and commonwealth deposits to the fund may be expended without further appropriation only to make the loan payments and to administer the program on behalf of eligible graduates of public institutions of higher education in the commonwealth. Eligible loans shall not include credit card loans or loans taken out by the eligible student’s parent or guardian.
The fund shall be administered by the state treasurer using procedures established by the board of trustees. The board shall file these procedures with the senate and house committees on ways and means, the joint committee on higher education and the secretary of administration and finance not later than 30 days after promulgation of said procedures by the board. The board shall file any amendments to the procedures with the senate and house committees on ways and means, the joint committee on higher education and the secretary of administration and finance not later than 30 days after the board adopts said amendments. The procedures shall include a method for the board of trustees to certify to the senate and house committees on ways and means, the joint committee on higher education and the secretary of administration and finance the actual amount received in private contributions to the fund in each fiscal year. The procedures shall also include safeguards for protecting the anonymity of donors who desire not to be identified.
Grants provided from the fund shall, in addition to any restrictions adopted by the board of trustees, be restricted as follows: (1) a recipient shall have graduated from a public institution of higher education in the commonwealth on or after December 1, 2007 with a degree in a STEM field within 3 years of reaching junior-year standing in the program selected at a 4-year institution; provided, that for the purposes of this section, eligible STEM fields may include: healthcare practitioners and technical occupations; computer and mathematical occupations; life, physical and social sciences occupations; and architecture and engineering occupations; provided further, that the eligible STEM fields shall also include teaching in any of the aforementioned areas; (2) a recipient shall have graduated from a public institution of higher education in the commonwealth with a cumulative grade point average of 3.0 or greater; (3) a recipient’s family income during the recipient’s final year of enrollment at a public institution of higher education in the commonwealth as documented on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid form shall have been at or below 300 per cent of the federal poverty level applicable in that year; (4) a recipient shall have completed at least 1 year of employment in a STEM field within the commonwealth; (5) a recipient shall reside in the commonwealth; and (6) a recipient’s annual salary shall not exceed $65,000 per year for a single filer and $80,000 per year for joint filers.
Grants shall be awarded in an amount not to exceed $5,000 annually per recipient and shall not exceed $15,000 cumulatively per recipient. The grants shall be paid from the fund directly to the lender on behalf of an eligible graduate.
The board of trustees shall, every 3 years, undertake a review of the eligibility requirements in subsection (e) and the workforce needs of the commonwealth to determine which occupations could benefit from an award as provided in this section and which occupations, if any, no longer require this program. The board may amend the eligibility requirements and expand or contract the program in accordance with the changing workforce needs of the commonwealth.