those at the doctoral level. Although there is not a crisis at the moment and there are differences in labor markets by field that could lead to surpluses in some areas and shortages in others, the trends in enrollments and degrees are nonetheless cause for concern in a global environment wherein science and technology play an increasing role. The rationale for the fellowship is that the number of people with doctorates in the sciences, mathematics, and engineering awarded by US institutions each year has not kept pace with the increasing importance of science and technology to the nation’s prosperity.
Currently, the federal government supports 7,000 full-time graduate fellows and trainees. Most of these grants are provided either to institutions or directly to students by the NSF’s Graduate Research Fellowship program and Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship Program (IGERT) or by the National Institutes of Health Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award program. The US Department of Education, through its Graduate Assistance in Areas of National Need program, also provides traineeships and has a mechanism for identifying areas for grant-making to academic programs. Those are important sources of support, but they meet only a fraction of the need. The proposed 5,000 new fellowships each year eventually will increase to 22,000 the number of graduate students supported at any one time, thus helping to increase the number of US citizens and permanent residents earning doctorates in nationally important fields.
Portable graduate fellowships should attract high-quality students and offer them access to the best education possible. Students who have unencumbered financial support could select the US academic institutions that best meet their interests and that offer the best opportunities to broaden their experience before they begin focusing on specific research. The fellowships would offer substantial and steady financial support during the early years of graduate study, with the assumption that the recipients would find support from other means, such as research assistantships, once research subjects and mentors were identified.
An alternative point of view is that the support provided under this recommendation should be provided not—or not only—to individuals but also to programs that would use the funds both to develop a comprehensive approach to doctoral education and to support students through traineeships. Such institutional grants could be used by federal funders to directly require specific programmatic changes as well. They would also allow institutions to recruit promising students who might not apply for portable fellowships.
But, in the view of the committee, providing fellowships directly to students creates a greater stimulus to enroll and offers an additional positive effect: improvement of educational quality. The fellowships create com-