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cause socioeconomic status also is an important determinant of success in higher education.


The federal government should fund Graduate Scholar Awards in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (GSA-STEM), a new scholarship program that would provide 5,000 new portable 3-year competitively awarded graduate fellowships each year for outstanding US citizens in science, mathematics, and engineering programs pursuing degrees at US universities. Portable fellowships would provide funds directly to students, who would choose where they wish to pursue graduate studies instead of having to follow faculty research grants.

Typically, college seniors and recent graduates consider several factors in deciding whether to pursue graduate study. An abiding interest in a field and the encouragement of a mentor often contribute to the positive side of the balance sheet. The availability of financial support, the relative lack of income while in school, and job prospects upon completing an advanced degree also weigh on students’ minds, no matter how much society supports their choices. The National Defense Education Act was a tremendous stimulus to graduate study in the 1960s, 1970s, and early 1980s, but has been incrementally restricted to serve a broader set of goals (see Box 7-2). A similar effort is now called for to meet the nation’s long-term need for scientists and engineers in universities, government, nonprofit organizations, the national laboratory system, and industry.

The committee makes the following recommendations:

  • The National Science Foundation (NSF) should administer the program.

  • Recipients could use the grants at any US institution to which they have been admitted.

  • The program should be advised by a board of representatives from federal agencies who identify areas of national need.

  • Tuition and fee reimbursement would be up to $20,000 annually, and each recipient would receive an annual stipend of $30,000. Those amounts would be adjusted over time for inflation.

  • The program would be phased in over 3 years.

  • The federal government would provide appropriate funding to academic institutions to defray reasonable administrative expenses.

There has been much debate in recent years about whether the United States is facing a looming shortage of scientists and engineers, including

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