Tech Talent Bill introduced

Warning that the nation needs "to expand our domestic pool of brainpower," seven members of the House and Senate introduced a "Tech Talent Bill" Oct. 15 to reward colleges that increase the number of U.S. citizens or permanent residents who earn degrees in science, math, engineering and technology.

While the number of jobs requiring substantial technical skill is projected to increase by more than 50 percent during the next decade, the number of students studying for technical degrees is declining, the lawmakers said.

"Over the last decade, our nation's economy has grown increasingly dependent on a workforce highly trained in science, mathematics, engineering and technology," said Sen. Bill Frist (R-Tenn.). "If graduation rates in these fields continue to decline, the U.S. economy could face a real crisis as it struggles to compete globally."

The bill would provide grants to colleges and universities that develop courses "that pull students into science instead of weeding them out," said Paul Romer, a Stanford University economist who has endorsed the bill.

The bill would make $25 million available this fiscal year to be awarded as grants to colleges. Eventually, the congressional sponsors said they expect the amount of grant money to increase, perhaps to as much as $200 million a year.

The grants would be awarded by the National Science Foundation to universities, colleges and community colleges.

Sens. Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.), Christopher Bond (R-Mo.), Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) and Pete Domenici (R-N.M.) joined Frist as bill sponsors in the Senate.

House Science Chairman Sherwood Boehlert (R-N.Y.) and Rep. John Larson (D-Conn.) sponsored the bill in the House.

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