Stop Singing the Student-Loan Blues

The opinion-page article "Student Debt - Address It Now or Pay Later," Aug. 20, presents some of the anxieties that students and parents confront in borrowing to pay for a college education. Helping students and families deal with those anxieties is the goal behind the student-aid policies and proposals developed by the Clinton administration.

In recent years, the old guaranteed student-loan program has grown cumbersome for students and colleges, and unduly expensive for taxpayers. The need for change in this area led the Clinton administration and a bipartisan coalition in Congress to create the direct student-loan program - a simpler, faster, and more efficient way of getting loan funds to students that offers them more choices in how they repay their loans.

Direct lending delivers loan funds to students through their campus financial-aid office in a matter of days, a great improvement compared with turnarounds of six weeks or more in the guaranteed program. Direct lending gives students the choice of repaying their loans as a percentage of their income - an important option that makes their debts more manageable when their incomes are low, their families are young, or their careers are just beginning.

Borrowers who are already repaying their loans can pursue this option through a Direct Consolidation Loan. Now entering its third year of operation, direct lending is getting high marks from administrators and more than 2 million student borrowers at more than 1,700 participating colleges.

President Clinton has outlined several proposals to strengthen our national commitment to excellence in education and to expand educational opportunities. These proposals, which are paid for in his balanced- budget plan, reflect three guiding principles: cutting costs for students and families, rewarding academic achievement, and encouraging personal responsibility through work and savings. They include:

*America's HOPE scholarships, which will provide a refundable tax credit to middle-income families for college tuition. The credit would provide up to $1,500 for full-time students in their first year of college and $750 for half-time students. Those students who earn a B average during their freshman year can receive the same credit for a second year. This covers the breadth of post-secondary education - technical schools, community colleges, and public and private colleges and universities.

*A tax deduction of up to $10,000 per family for tuition for college, graduate school, community college, or a certified technical program. Families could choose the tax credit or the deduction, but not both for the same student at the same time.

*Expanding the College Work-Study Program by 50 percent, enabling 1 million students to earn part of their tuition through a campus job.

*Providing $1,000 merit scholarships to the top 5 percent of students in every high school in the country as a reward for their accomplishment.

*Increasing the Pell Grant, the basic federal grant for needy students, to $3,120 by the year 2000.

The US Department of Education plays a vital role in helping students and families meet the costs of college. In fact, more than two-thirds of all student aid comes in the form of federal grants and loans, which ensures access to higher education for millions of students.

In the information age in which we live, access to higher education is at the heart of our economic well-being and the American spirit of opportunity.

Richard W. Riley


Secretary of Education

Choked up about the British

I almost choked on my morning porridge when I saw the drawing used to illustrate the Home Forum article "An Olympics the British Could Win," Aug. 30.

I believe the author, who lives in Glasgow, Scotland, would be forgiven for launching a heavily loaded flowerpot at the cartoonist for his unforgivable error in referring to Britain as "England" in the drawing title "England Wins Flower Relay."

I doubt if the author will be taking that issue of the Monitor when he walks his dog to meet his fellow gardeners.

Lilias MacBean Hart

Wilmington, Vt.

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