The Collegian
Monday, April 15, 2024

A degree in service: Roosevelt Scholars Act

It goes without saying that the government's ability to perform essential functions depends on a talented, well-educated and engaged workforce. During the next five years, about one-third of the government's top scientists, engineers, mathematicians, economists and other specialized professionals will be packing up their desks and retiring.

As we bid the boomers farewell, an unnerving but inevitable question surfaces: Who is going to replace them? The departure of the boomer generation marks the largest workforce drop-off in American history, and government agencies are desperately trying to find adequate replacements.

According to agency hiring forecasts collected in 2007, the federal government is looking to hire more than 193,000 new employees for high-skilled positions in 2009 alone. Unfortunately, the flow of talent stepping forward to replace these federal workers continues to dwindle.

On Tuesday, I asked President Edward L. Ayers to join more than 100 leaders of colleges and universities in support of the Roosevelt Scholars Act by adding his name to a letter that is currently circulating Capitol Hill.

Introduced by David Price of North Carolina in late July, The Roosevelt Scholars Act seeks to revitalize the government by recruiting the nation's best and brightest for these crucial occupations. By creating an elite scholarship program to fund graduate-level study in exchange for civil commitment, the program aims to create a new, high-performing workforce dedicated to public service.

Modeled after the military's ROTC program, the Roosevelt Scholars Act will create a scholarship program for people pursuing degrees in areas of high skill and need, or "mission-critical" areas. The Act will establish a foundation that will award up to $60,000 in tuition per year, for a maximum of five years, for students completing degrees in engineering, medicine and public health, foreign languages, information technology and law.

Scholarship recipients will be required to complete an internship with a federal agency in addition to serving as a federal service ambassador at his or her college or university. Upon completing the degree, the scholar will be committed to working with a federal government agency for three to five years, depending on the duration of the degree program.

Anyone who intends to pursue a degree in any of these high-skill professions should consider the benefits of this proposal. Let's face it, the cost of higher education is not becoming more affordable and public service is a noble profession with a boundless future.

You should not hesitate to contact your representatives in Congress to see where they stand on this new opportunity. After all, I'm sure they would appreciate a break from health care politics.

You can learn more about the Roosevelt Scholars Act and sign a petition online expressing your support.

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