Pat Grassley, David Kerr. (RI photo)

Republicans in the Iowa House are proposing a new 12 million dollar scholarship program for students at Iowa’s three public universities. House Speaker Pat Grassley said it’s an effort to address workforce shortages in specific occupations.

“I think it’s a really creative idea and something new that we definitely want to have on the table,” Grassley said.

Half of the money would go to juniors and seniors studying to be teachers. The other $6 million would go juniors and seniors seeking degrees in other occupations which are in high demand. Grassley said it’s a way to put money into the three state universities to directly address a lack of qualified employees.

“This put us in a position for the Regents to compete for those students to go into those high demand occupations,” Grassley said, “to get more money into each of the Regents institutions.”

Each student could get up to $10,000 over two years in scholarship money. The final $2500 would be paid if the student stays and works in Iowa for a year after graduation.

“To try to encourage folks not only to enter high demand jobs, but to stay in the state and work,” Grassley said.

Republican Representative David Kerr of Morning Sun is chairman of the House subcommittee that drafts a budget for the University of Iowa, Iowa State University and the University of Northern Iowa.

“It’ll be a great recruiting tool here in Iowa for each of the regent universities to attract students and they need students because of the enrollments are decreasing,” Kerr said, “but I think this is a great plan that they’ll jump on board with.”

A spokesperson for the Board of Regents says the board is very appreciative of any proposal to provide additional financial aid to students. The board that governs Iowa, Iowa State and UNI has asked legislators to provide a general budget boost of $15 million for the three state schools.