Update, July 30, 2009: Representatives David Price (D-NC) and Michael Castle (R-DE) introduced the Roosevelt Scholars Act of 2009 in the House.
The Roosevelt Scholars Act aims to create a new pipeline to public service careers for graduate students who are developing skills desperately needed by the federal government.
The Roosevelt Scholars Act, which was introduced last year in the House of Representatives but not yet during this year’s 111th Congress, would create a scholarship program to fund graduate education for students who demonstrate outstanding potential for a career in a mission-critical occupational area within the federal government, and who in turn would commit to three to five years of service in a federal government agency. The scholarship would would be similar to ROTC, but instead of committing to military service, students would commit to Federal government service.
Rep. David Price (D-NC) is planning to introduce the legislation in the House before the August recess. (Last year, he and RPCV Rep. Chris Shays (R-CT) introduced the legislation; Shays was not reelected last November.)
The Act would establish a small foundation called the Theodore Roosevelt Scholarship Foundation to administer the scholarships, including tuition and living expenses. Scholarships could amount to as much as $60,000 per student per year, for up to five years, to complete a degree in “high-skill, high-need fields including engineering, information technology, foreign languages and public health,” according to the Partnership for Public Service.
The purpose of the Act is to highlight the federal government as a career destination, because, according to the Partnership for Public Service, the government “faces an unprecedented workforce crisis as experienced workers begin to retire and the pipeline of talent available to replace them continues to thin.”
What are “mission critical” occupations?
According the Frequently Asked Questions (PDF) document for the Roosevelt Scholars program, “Mission-critical occupational area” refers to:
those hard to fill positions that a federal agency defines as are essential to achieving its strategic goals. These positions are determined through agency workforce planning. The Foundation will collect this data from agencies and will maintain a comprehensive list of mission-critical occupations. Mission-critical occupations will vary over time based on the need for talent and expertise in particular areas.
According to a 2007 report Where the Jobs Are: Mission Critical Opportunities for America (PDF), agencies need to hire more than 193,000 new employees for mission-critical positions through fiscal year 2009. These “mission-critical occupational areas” include engineering, medicine and public health, foreign languages, information technology and law.
The Roosevelt Scholars Program vs. The U.S. Public Service Academy
The Roosevelt Scholars program has similar aims as the U.S. Public Service Academy—the subject of another piece of legislation currently drafted and waiting in committee in the House. The U.S. Public Service Academy would offer four years of tuition-free civilian education to train new generations of public service leaders, in exchange for five years of service in public institutions, meeting critical needs—comparable to the way military academies offer tuition-free education to aspiring military officers.
However, Margot Conrad of the Partnership for Public Service insists that the two concepts aren’t mutually exclusive, nor do they intend to compete with each other.
The Roosevelt Scholars program is unique in that it wouldn’t establish a new school, but would offer students at existing schools across the country the financial assistance they need to enroll and graduate. While the U.S. Public Service Academy would allow students to work off their public service commitment through federal, state, local government and/or nonprofit service, Roosevelt Scholars would have to commit to federal government service specifically.
Also, the Roosevelt Scholars Act, H.R. 6160, introduced last year in the House, focuses on on graduate education while the U.S. Public Service Academy planning has focused on undergraduate education. This may change with the Senate version of the bill. A Roosevelt Scholars amendment filed (but never voted on) on the floor of the Senate for the Serve America Act did include undergraduate education, so it seems likely that if legislation is introduced again in the Senate, it will again include undergraduate education.
How you can get involved
If you like the idea of the Roosevelt Scholars program, the Partnership for Public Service has created an online petition you can sign to show your support (you can make your signature anonymous). Check out other ways to support the Act at the bottom of this page.