ANNAPOLIS – Maryland could be losing out on as much as $1 billion in high-tech salaries each year and state officials are looking for a way to recover that potential tax base.
Their $10 million solution is a scholarship program for promising high school students who agree to study high-tech disciplines in Maryland colleges and then stay in-state to fill some of the jobs that now go wanting.
“The thing that really keeps us strong is our technology. A scholarship such as this fills a void,” said Sen. Clarence W. Blount, D-Baltimore, whose Economic and Environmental Affairs Committee heard testimony on two scholarship bills Tuesday.
“It’s really about economic development in Maryland,” said Anita Harewood, a legislative aide to Gov. Parris Glendening, who introduced one of the proposals.
Glendening’s version of the scholarship program would assist more than 2,000 students a year starting in 2000. It would cost about $10 million by the year 2003.
A similar plan sponsored by Sen. Patrick J. Hogan, R- Montgomery, would help about 400 students a year and cost taxpayers about $2.5 million by 2003.
Both initiatives would award $3,000 a year to students attending a four-year college who maintain a grade-point average of 3.0. Community college students who meet the same requirements could get $1,000 a year toward their studies.
Recipients would have to work in the state after graduating for as many years as they received the scholarship — thus helping fill the gap of skilled workers.
The bills would fund computer science and information technology studies, but that could change as business needs change or new disciplines develop.
Dyan Brasington, president of the 570-member Maryland High- Tech Council, said the biggest issue for her 570 members is developing a larger pool of skilled workers in the state.
“As we move into the next century, with advanced technology applications, there will be a continuing need for technology skilled workers,” she said.
Patricia Florestano, secretary of the Maryland Higher Education Commission, told the committee that the scholarship will make it easier for Marylanders to pursue high-tech careers.
That sentiment was echoed by Freeman Hrabowski, president of the University of Maryland Baltimore County, who said it is “almost impossible” for a student to hold an outside job while studying a demanding discipline.
“That’s the purpose of this scholarship,” he said. “People are frightened by math and science. It requires considerable discipline and you’ve got to work and work and work.”
Hrabowski, a former math teacher, said he had just flown in from California, where Silicon Valley companies treat high-tech workers “like they’re little gods.”