Senate panel advances bill to boost federal cyber scholarships

Senate panel advances bill to boost federal cyber scholarships
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A Senate committee on Wednesday advanced legislation that would update and expand an existing federal cybersecurity scholarship program for students pursuing degrees in cyber fields. 

The bipartisan bill, sponsored by Sens. Roger WickerRoger Frederick WickerWeek ahead: Crunch time for defense bill’s cyber reforms | Equifax under scrutiny Senator says he nearly has the votes for ObamaCare repeal GOP braces for Bannon primary attacks MORE (R-Miss.) and Tim KaineTimothy Michael KaineWeek ahead: Crunch time for defense bill’s cyber reforms | Equifax under scrutiny Insurer Anthem to cover bare ObamaCare counties in Virginia Senate votes down Paul's bid to revoke war authorizations MORE (D-Va.), would expand a cyber scholarship-for-service program run by the National Science Foundation in an effort to bolster the nation’s cybersecurity workforce. 

The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee approved a final version of the legislation amended by Wicker in a voice vote Wednesday morning. 

The National Science Foundation’s Cyber Corps: Scholarships for Service program offers ROTC-style scholarships to students pursuing degrees in cybersecurity fields.

The bill approved Wednesday would amend 2014 law to expand the program to offer scholarships to part-time students. It would also prioritize the employment placement of 80 percent of the scholarship awardees in an executive agency. 

Students who receive the scholarships can be placed in positions at an executive agency, Congress, an interstate agency, or a state, local or tribal government or affiliated nonprofit. 

The legislation would also direct the National Science Foundation to provide awards to improve cybersecurity education in kindergarten through the 12th grade, in order to increase interest in cyber-related fields, help students learn how to secure their systems, improve computer science education and promote teacher recruitment in cybersecurity. 

The Cyber Corps program has funded a pilot program since 2014 aimed at boosting K-12 cybersecurity education. 

The amended version of the bill also establishes a pilot program for scholarships for students and veterans pursuing cybersecurity degrees at community colleges. The program would be established at between five and 10 community colleges. 

After a year, the National Science Foundation and the Office of Personnel Management would be required to assess the “benefits and feasibility” of providing scholarships to students pursuing associate degrees at community colleges who do not have bachelor’s degrees. 

The original version of the legislation expanded the Cyber Corps program to apply to community college students who have the intention of transferring to a bachelor’s degree program.