1. What is the Scholarship For Service (SFS) program?
It’s the federal government’s response to deal with the threat to our information technology infrastructure by strengthening the cadre of professionals who protect it. This program provides capacity building grants to selected 4-year colleges and universities to develop or improve their capacity to train information assurance professionals. It also provides selected 4-year colleges and universities scholarship grants to attract students to the information assurance field.
2. What costs are covered by the SFS program at UTEP?
UTEP participants receive free tuition, $3,000 for health insurance, $2,000 for books and school supplies, $4,000 for professional development/travel, and $34,000 for graduate students and $22,500 for undergraduates in the dual-credit program. All payments are provided at an annual basis.
3. How may students apply, and how are they selected for the program?
Students can download the application form available at UTEP’s SFS Application Page.
Students who apply will be selected in accordance with the process and screening criteria set forth by the UTEP SFS program committee. In general, applicants must show high academic standing, desire to engage in government service, and ability to obtain government security clearance after graduation.
4. What are the student eligibility requirements?
Undergraduate applicants must have senior standing, have a GPA of 3.2 or higher, and be enrolled in the fast-track (BSCS/MSSwE) program by the start of scholarship award. Graduate students must have a GPA of 3.5 or higher, and be enrolled in the MSSwE or PhD-CS programs by the start of scholarship award. All applicants must be U.S. Citizens or Permanent Residents, and be able to obtain a security clearance.
5. Where can I find information regarding obtaining security clearance?
Please visit the following U.S. Department of State’s Site for more information about the security clearance requirements, procedures, and length.
6. When, and for how long, can a student get a scholarship?
UTEP will start awarding SFS scholarships in fall 2016. The deadline for the applications is 03/04/2016. Deadlines for upcoming semesters will be announced at later dates.
Undergraduate students can be funded for a total of two years; one year at the undergraduate rate and another at the graduate rate. MSSwE students can be funded for two years at the graduate student rate. PhD students can be funded for up to three years at the graduate rate.
7. What are the recipients’ obligations associated with SFS scholarship?
SFS Scholarship recipients are obliged to:
- Complete their degree program successfully and on time,
- Complete a summer internship with a participating government agency,
- Serve in Federal, State, Local, Tribal, or Territorial government positions after graduation. Service obligation will be equal to one year of service in a cyber-security related position for each year of funding received, and,
- Attend the annual CyberCorps® SFS job fair in Washington DC (All expenses paid).
For more information regarding the government agency service obligation, please consult the Cybersecurity Enhancement Act of 2014 document.
8. Does the student have to serve in a summer internship at a government agency during the funding period?
Yes. The UTEP SFS program requires that students obtain a summer internship position with a government agency.
9. Does the student have to serve the internship at the government agency that will employ him or her upon graduation?
No. The student may serve the internship at another government agency. However, the nature of the work assignments must meet program requirements. Moreover, for several reasons, it is strongly recommended that the internship be served at the agency that will ultimately hire the student. For example, the internship provides the environment that helps create a bond between the student and the employer. It also helps create in the student a sense of belonging, of being a part of that agency’s cadre of information assurance professionals. More importantly, the internship should be an integral part of a mentoring process that should span throughout the entire academic and employment phases of the program.
10. Am I enrolling in Military Service?
No. The “Service” referred to in the title of the program is service as a CIVILIAN in a government Agency such as the CIA, FBI, NSA, NSF, NPS and many others. It is a full-time real job as a civilian working for the US Government. The program does not obligate the students to enlist.
11. Who pays for the scholarships?
The National Science Foundation awarded the grant for the scholarships to UTEP. The federal agencies that choose to participate by hiring program participants bear none of the cost for the scholarships.
12. What agency administers the SFS program?
The Interagency Coordinating Committee (ICC) oversees the program. The ICC is composed of representatives from the National Security Council (NSC), National Security Agency (NSA), Critical Infrastructure Assurance Office (CIAO), National Science Foundation (NSF), U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM), and Office of Management and Budget (OMB). NSF administers the issuance of grants process and the capacity building component. The scholarship component (including the placement and tracking of participants) of the SFS program is administered by OPM’s San Antonio Service Center. Questions about the program may be addressed to Kathy Roberson, SFS Program Manager, at firstname.lastname@example.org or (210) 805-2423, extension 506
13. Is there any evidence that the SFS program works?
The SFS program is modeled after other successful programs and borrows some of their best features. For example, much like the PMI Program, top-level students are nominated by their institutions. The internship offers the student-agency bonding opportunity of the co-op work experiences. The scholarships and stipends mirror the recruiting bonuses and retention allowances federal agencies may use to attract top talent.
In the last 16 years, NSF has funded 66 SFS programs across the nation and over 2000 students have received funds using the CyberCorps® SFS program. According to NSF-OPM data, over 94% of graduates funded by these programs have obtained a qualified position with a government agency.
14. What is the process for “matching” students with government agencies?
Participants are asked to complete an electronic resume in OPM’s Resume Builder. The SFS Program Office provides federal agencies electronic copies of these resumes. Upon receiving the resumes, agencies contact, directly, those students in whom they are interested for the purpose of effecting student/agency matches. When a match is made, the agency obtains from the student an e-mail statement indicating he or she has agreed to match with the agency. The agency forwards a copy of the e-mail to the SFS Program Office.
In addition, each scholarship recipient will be required to attend the annual CyberCorps® Job Fair . The event is held in early January in Washington, DC. The event brings together a large number of government agencies and students funded by the SFS program from different institutions.
Finally, the UTEP SFS committee will work with all awardees to ensure that they master both the technical skills associated with cyber security, as well as, soft skills such as interviewing skills, oral and written communication, and teaming skills.
15. Is it important that matches be made early?
It is very important that matches be made early to ensure all students who receive scholarship funds for more than one academic year have the opportunity to serve an internship performing information assurance-related work. The internship, which is a program requirement, is intended to enhance the students’ information assurance knowledge by exposing them to worthwhile, field-related work experiences. Therefore, an early match allows time for planning an optimal internship.
16. What authority may agencies use to appoint SFS program participants upon graduation?
Agencies Under title 5: There is no special hiring authority created for the placement of Scholarship For Service participants. However, there are several avenues open to the agencies to afford students the opportunity to fulfill their post-graduation employment commitment. More importantly, in general, the length of the employment commitment will provide agencies plenty of time to seek the permanent placement of students under time-limited appointments. However, there are two caveats to remember. The agency must comply with the regulatory requirements applicable to whatever authority is used; and the appointment must be of sufficient duration to permit the participant to serve for a period equivalent to the length of the scholarship period or one year, whichever is longer.
17. Why is the SFS program important to the government agencies?
The SFS program is important to the government agencies because it helps them obtain the talent they need to protect their information systems. Upon graduation, participants must serve at a government agency for a period equivalent to the length of the scholarship. This service must be in a position concerned with information assurance. During their period of government service, participants join the agency’s cadre of professionals that protect its critical information systems infrastructure.