Roosevelt scholarships would help fill mission-critical positions

Reps. David Price (D-N.C.) and Christopher Shays (R-Conn.) introduced legislation May 22 that would create a graduate-level scholarship program for students willing to commit to service in mission-critical federal jobs.

The Roosevelt Scholars Act of 2008 would establish an elite scholarship program for graduate students and a foundation to oversee the selection process and ongoing support activities. The act is named for Theodore Roosevelt, considered the father of the modern civil service.

The program would provide full tuition for graduate study, support for room and board, and a stipend. In exchange, Roosevelt scholars would have to complete an internship with a federal agency and, after graduating, spend a minimum of three years in government service.

The bill is designed to help the federal government meet a looming shortage of high-level, highly specialized professionals, Price said.

“What we’re dealing with is a crisis of capacity — the government’s capacity to continue providing the services that Americans depend on,” said Price, co-chairman of the Congressional Service Caucus. “In the face of a dwindling professional workforce, we must act now to recruit the scientists, engineers and other high-level experts who make our government work. Our initiative would mobilize the country’s colleges and universities to address this very acute challenge.”

Shays said the program would help ensure that public-sector positions remain a viable option for the best and brightest students.

“To attract tomorrow’s leaders to public-sector positions, we need to provide resources, like tuition assistance, in order for these jobs to compete with the salaries available to top-notch employees in the private sector,” he said.

Max Stier, president and chief executive officer of the Partnership for Public Service, said the program has the potential to make an impact similar to that of the college-based ROTC program, which has generated nearly 40 percent of the active-duty officers in the military.

In a 2007 study, the Partnership for Public Service urged Congress to establish a national scholarship program to persuade talented young people to enter government service.

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