Washington update - Higher Education


Higher Education News and Jobs

Washington update

by Charles Dervarics

22 Black Colleges Risk Losing Student Loan Eligibility Status

Twenty-two historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) could lose their eligibility status for federal student loan programs unless the percentage of default among their loan recipients declines.

A January 21 report issued by the U.S. General Accounting Office (GAO) indicates that the average default rate at HBCUs was 211 percent, nearly three times the rate of all other non-profit colleges participating in federal student loan programs.

Currently, federal law requires that colleges with default rates in excess of 25 percent for three consecutive years must lose their eligibility to participate in federal student loan programs. However, HBCUs are exempt from the law until July 1, 1998. Nevertheless, legislators must soon decide whether to extend that exemption is linked to the Higher Education Act, which expires in September 1997.

The GAO report mentions that a loss of eligibility could create havoc at many HBCUs by making it difficult for students to pay tuition.

For a copy of Student Loans: Default Rates at Historically Black Colleges and Universities, contact the GAO at P.O. Box 6015 Gaithersburg, MD 20884-6015. Initial copies are free, but additional copies are $2 each. The report also can be ordered at http://www.gao.gov on the Internet.

HSIs Seek Same Default Protection as HBCUs

Hispanic-serving institutions (HSIs) should receive the same protections from federal default sanctions as historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs), according to legislation introduced in the early days of the 105th Congress.

The bill proposed by Rep. Jose Serrano (E)-N.Y.) would amend the Higher Education Act (HEA) to include the same exemptions HBCUs currently enjoy. HBCUs and tribal colleges are exempt — through 1998 — from federal sanctions that deny high-default schools access to student loan programs and, in some cases, grant programs as well.

Serrano’s bill was introduced as H.R. 281 in the new Congress, which will begin reauthorizing HEA this year.

Under current law, colleges and universities without default exemptions can lose access to student loan programs if they have default rates above 25 percent each of the past three years. Institutions also can lose access to all programs, including grants, if their most recent default rates exceed 40 percent.

The Department of Education (ED) just released a list of more than 300 institutions that could lose eligibility for some or all student aid programs because of high defaults. Most of these institutions are for-profit trade schools. The list also contains nineteen two-year colleges, including four in California.

The Clinton administration may consider an extension of the provision, an Education Department official said in January. HBCU leaders had spoken of the continued need for the exemption at a series of regional hearings on HEA late in 1996.

Serrano’s bill would offer the exemption to all institutions classified as HSIs. The term generally refers to colleges and universities with a Hispanic enrollment of at least 25 percent.

No action is currently scheduled on the bill. For more information, contact Serrano’s office at: (202) 225-4361.

Clinton Promises, “The Doors of Higher Education Will Be Open to All”

Education must become “every citizen’s most prized possession,” President Clinton said in outlining national goals during his second inauguration January 20.

“Our schools will have the highest standards in the world igniting the spark of possibility in the eyes of every girl and every boy,” the president said. “And the doors of higher education will be open to all.”

Clinton’s twenty-two-minute address touched on education and other broad themes, but the president stayed away from specific policy pronouncements. Instead, he sought a conciliatory tone in his inaugural address, insisting the end of the twentieth century must include a commitment by Americans to surpass past achievements.

The president is expected to detail his education plans in his State of the Union Address and 1998 budget plan, scheduled to be released this month.

Clinton also briefly paid homage in his speech to the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., whose national holiday coincided with this year’s January 20 inauguration. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech thirty-four years ago during the March on Washington (D.C.) “moved the conscience of a nation,” Clinton said. “Martin Luther King’s dream was the American dream.”

Education Caucus Loses Chair

The departure of a senior Black Democrat from Congress may signal an end to a new congressional caucus devoted to education issues.

Rep. Cleo Fields (D-La.) chaired the Congressional Education Caucus from its inception last year. His goal was to hold hearings and develop bills and position papers on a wide variety of education issues. A two-term member, Fields did not seek re-election in 1996 after his congressional district was redrawn.

Last year’s caucus co-chairman, Sen. Paul Wellstone (D-Minn.), did win re-election, hut his staff had no information about any future plans for the group or whether last year’s participants had continued interest in the caucus. “No one here has looked at those issues, ” an aide said.

Other congressional caucuses, however, do debate education issues — including the Congressional Black Caucus, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, and the Progressive Caucus. But Fields’s group was the first to focus solely on education topics.

Congress’s top experts on education also spent much of January tinkering with the structure of House and Senate committees. For example, the House of Representatives decided to change the name of its education panel to Committee on Education and the Workforce.

Last year, that panel was called the Economic and Educational Opportunities Committee. Republican leaders made the change panel, a congressional aide said. Democrats called the panel the Education and Labor Committee when they controlled Congress.

The committee will have the same chairman as last year, Rep. William Goodling (R-Pa.), and the same phone number, (202) 225-4527.

Justice leaders Oppose Proposition 209

The U.S. Justice Department plans to join the legal battle against California’s anti-affirmative action statute as part of a new effort to expand civil-rights efforts.

Justice attorneys will file motions supporting critics of California’s Proposition 209, according to Myron Marlin, a department spokesman. No timetable has been set for the legal appeal of the referendum California voters approved last fall. Some observers believe the legal battle on the referendum, called the California Civil Rights Initiative, could take years.

Proposition 209 bans the use of race-based affirmative action in the state. A California judge recently halted enforcement of the measure pending legal action to determine whether it is constitutional.

The department signaled its intentions as Attorney General Janet Reno also pledged to expand Justice’s support for civil rights.

“I fear that what national consensus we have on civil rights may be at risk of unraveling,” Reno said in a speech at a Washington, D.C., church on Jan. 15, the birthday of slain civil rights leader Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Reno criticized Proposition 209 and similar plans as “misguided,” noting that African Americans and Hispanics still have trouble gaining admission to college, renting an apartment or getting a job.

The Justice Department is expected to get new civil-rights personnel for the president’s second term. Deval Patrick, the assistant secretary for civil rights, left the administration in late January.

COPYRIGHT 1997 Cox, Matthews & Associates
COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group



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