- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 13, 2008

In their first taste of wooing Washington’s power brokers, a group of students met with lawmakers Friday to advocate for legislation creating a U.S. Public Service Academy.

About 85 students had the run of Capitol Hill, meeting with their representatives and pleading their case for a federally funded university, modeled after the military academies, that would provide a free education in exchange for a five-year commitment to public service work.

The goal is to boost the pool of qualified candidates for teaching, nursing, law enforcement and federal government careers, among others. Advocates say the high cost of college education prices many graduates out of lower-paying career fields.

Gretchen Hahn buttonholed Sen. Joe Lieberman, Connecticut independent, as he exited a committee meeting. “I was quite literally lobbying in the lobby,” she said.

Miss Hahn, 21, a senior at Smith College in Massachusetts is president of the College Republicans at the all-female school. She said that her efforts to encourage federal government careers are not a betrayal of her conservative roots.

“We’re trying to make the government run better and smoother, so it can be as small as possible,” Miss Hahn said.

Chris Myers Asch, a former Peace Corps volunteer and founder of U.S. Public Service Academy, the nonprofit group advocating the school, said the novice lobbyists got results. They met with about 15 congressman, three of whom signed onto the bill on the spot. Sen. Bob Casey, Pennsylvania Democrat, and Rep. Rick Renzi, Arizona Republican, added their names to the legislation.

Mr. Asch said the bill’s original four sponsors will re-introduce it in the next Congress if it dies in the current session.

Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton, New York Democrat, and Arlen Specter, Pennsylvania Republican, sponsored the Senate bill. Reps. James P. Moran, Virginia Democrat, and Christopher Shays, Connecticut Republican, introduced the House version.

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