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Bentsen Asks For NASA Comment On Space Grants For Universities

February 19, 1987

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Reigniting interest in a bill that stalled in the Senate last year, Sen. Lloyd Bentsen on Thursday urged NASA officials to join him in creating a national space grant program for universities and colleges.

Bentsen, D-Texas, said he plans to introduce a measure within the next few weeks similar to a bill he put forth last year calling for the startup of a National Space Grant Program to promote space study in universities.

Under last year’s bill, which died in the Senate, $10 million to $15 million a year would be spent by the federal government for initial development of a system of space grant colleges similar to the agricultural college system.

The bill would appear to have a better chance at passage this year, with the Senate now in Democratic hands and Bentsen chairing the Finance Committee.

At a subcommittee hearing Thursday, the three-term senator told NASA officials he is disturbed by studies showing a shrinking number of Americans involved in graduate level work on the nation’s space program.

Foreign students comprise over 50 percent of the graduate engineering students receiving doctorates in U.S. colleges, Bentsen said. ″In an era of intense competition, the role of the scientist and engineer is critical.″

Through the 1960s NASA helped an average of 500 scientists and engineers a year through its graduate fellowships program, but last year only 240 graduate degree fellowships were available, Bentsen told the subcommittee.

Dr. Jeffery Rosendhal, who administers the NASA graduate education program, said Bentsen’s proposal could be cumbersome for NASA to administer, and stressed that the current program, which spent between $2 million and $3 million last year, was doing a good job.

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