The US Uncle Sam repaid $9 billion in defaulted student loans last year. President Clinton planned to highlight the high cost of student loans in a trip to Southern Illinois University in Carbondale yesterday. Clinton's solution: a program that lends students money directly from the government. But in debate this week, congressional Republicans plan to cut Clinton's year-old pilot program, saying it is too expensive. They would continue the current practice of funneling money through private lenders. Affluent retirees will pay more in Medicare premiums as part of the GOP plan to reform the health-care program and balance the budget. Still at issue is the ''affluence test'' - at what income level the elderly will have to pay more. Speaker Gingrich has suggested $125,000 per couple. He and Clinton planned to meet today on the issue. Forty-eight out of 49 top economists agree: the US economy is accelerating modestly and will continue to expand through 1996. They say the economy will expand by 2.9 percent this year and 2.4 percent in 1996, says the National Association of Business Economists. The 49th thinks a recession will begin this year. Gerry Adams, head of the IRA's political wing, Sinn Fein, was to arrive in the US yesterday. On Sunday, he said he would consider formation of an international panel to try to break a deadlock over IRA disarmament. The dispute threatens the year-old peace process. Several tough issues are impeding Senate consensus on welfare reform. Among them: whether to provide child care for mothers required to get jobs because of ''workfare'' provisions; how to divide up block grants among the states; how much of their own money states must contribute; and whether to give benefits to immigrants. The Senate hopes to vote this week. Rep. Norman Mineta was expected to announce his resignation yesterday. The 11-term California Democrat said he will take a job with Lockheed Martin, a defense contractor. Senator Packwood qualified his regrets, saying that if he did the things he is accused of, he is sorry. He blamed alcoholism for loss of memory about many nights on which his accusers say he accosted them. He was asked on NBC Sunday to explain why he claims a faulty memory when his diary chronicles his private life. ''There are many inaccuracies in the diary,'' he replied. A flying saucer-like satellite trailed the shuttle yesterday after being released from Endeavour's cargo bay. The $25-million probe will create an ultra-clean vacuum - 10,000 times cleaner than any earth laboratory - in which a high-tech superconductor film is created. It will be used on next-generation electronics such as computers. The shuttle will pick up the probe Thursday to retrieve the film. The Dalai Lama has some delicate advice for the US: Improve relations with China while promoting freedom and democracy for its people. Congress has urged Clinton to meet with the exiled Tibetan leader, who is on a US tour seeking support for freeing his country from Chinese control. But such contact is touchy for the White House as it tries to mend ties with China. Of all public figures, kids recognize Michael Jordan's name the most. In a new survey for Time magazine, 96 percent of children recognized the basketball superstar. Other highly recognized names: Michael Jackson (94 percent), Jim Carey (87 percent), Tom Hanks (86 percent), and Hillary Clinton (82 percent). Lesser recognized figures: Senator Dole (25 percent), Boris Yeltsin (21 percent), and Nelson Mandela (20 percent). Two-thirds of kids said the issue of greatest concern to them is the environment; 60 percent said they were most worried about terrorist bombings. The World Bosnian Serb officials warned yesterday that firing more NATO cruise missiles may threaten peace talks. Some 13 Tomahawk missiles were fired Sunday at Serb heavy weapons sites around Sarajevo. The missiles killed many civilians and destroyed power and water stations, the Serbs said. NATO ambassadors were expected to hold special talks on Bosnia yesterday at Russia's request. Anti-Western sentiment is rising in the Russian parliament. Also, the UN canceled a visit by observers to a Bosnian Serb hospital where Serbs say UN artillery killed 10 people. And weekend talks between the Bosnian Serb Army and UN failed to produce results, the UN said yesterday. (Story, Page 1.) Delegates at the Women's Conference in Beijing dropped the EU-sponsored phrase ''sexual rights'' from their draft platform Sunday night after Iran objected to the term. The phrase related to nontraditional families, such as single- or same-sex parents. And Chinese security tried yesterday to break up a news conference of exiled Tibetan women and foreign delegates. A ''noise barrage'' of banged kettles, church bells, fireworks, sirens, and car horns resounded throughout the Philippines yesterday during a protest against France's resumption of nuclear testing in the South Pacific.Tens of thousands of citizens joined officials to express their anger. Meanwhile, eight legislators from Japan, Europe, and Australia who were detained when France seized a protest yacht near the site were freed Sunday. French President Chirac vowed to press ahead with testing Sunday. Israeli Prime Minister Rabin will press Russia for more openness about an agreement to sell nuclear technology to Iran during a visit to Moscow that begins tomorrow, an Israeli diplomat said yesterday. Israel refused to grant citizenship to Jonathan Pollard, who is serving a life sentence in the US for spying for Israel. Tokyo's desire to play a bigger role in the Arab-Israeli peace process has prompted a Middle East visit by Japan's Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama due to begin today. First stop: Saudi Arabia to seek a boost in trade and promote joint ventures. Also, Japan's Economic Planning agency said yesterday that Japan's economy is not recovering. And Japanese police said Sunday they found what appear to be the remains of the baby of a Japanese lawyer who was investigating the Aum Shinri Kyo group six years ago. Remains of the lawyer and his wife were found last week after some group members said they were killed by other sect members. Most newspapers in Algeria shut down yesterday to protest the killing of nearly 50 journalists slain by Islamic militants since 1993. Editors demanded that the government stop the carnage. Some suggested guarded compounds for journalists. North Korea began talks yesterday with a US-led delegation that includes South Korea and Japan in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The talks centered on a US agreement to provide North Korea with $4.5 billion in light-water nuclear reactors and alternative energy if Pyongyang gives up a nuclear program suspected of developing a bomb. Just as some Russian troops were withdrawing from Chechnya, rebels attacked and killed two of them yesterday. Negotiators are debating a schedule for further troop withdrawals from Chechnya. As part of a July 30 agreement, rebel fighters are to lay down their arms between Sept. 10 and Oct. 5. US Ambassador to the UN Madeleine Albright said yesterday that UN economic sanctions against Iraq would continue. Albright is touring Southeast Asia after attending the UN Women's Conference in Beijing. Etcetera Two members of a previously unknown Indian tribe were discovered in the Amazon rain forest, Brazil said Sunday. Although the Indians apparently hadn't encountered white people, their pants appeared to be modeled after bermuda shorts - suggesting contact with local miners or loggers. Solar scientists from around the world met yesterday in sunny Harare, Zimbabwe, to discuss the latest techniques for harnessing the sun's rays. They see the sun's power as an environmentally friendly and infinite power alternative. ''Help'' - an album recorded and released in less than a week by some of Britain's best young pop bands went on sale last weekend. Its aim is to raise more than $1.55 million for Bosnian children. 1995 Emmy Awards Drama series: ''NYPD Blues,'' ABC Comedy series: ''Frasier,'' NBC Miniseries: ''Joseph,'' TNT TV movie: ''Indictment: The McMartin Trial,'' HBO Variety, music or comedy special: ''Barbra Streisand, the Concert,'' HBO Variety, music or comedy series: ''The Tonight Show with Jay Leno,'' NBC Lead actor, drama series: Mandy Patinkin, ''Chicago Hope,'' CBS Lead actress, drama series: Kathy Baker, ''Picket Fences,'' CBS Lead actor, comedy series: Kelsey Grammer, ''Frasier,'' NBC Lead actress, comedy series: Candice Bergen, ''Murphy Brown,'' CBS Supporting actor, drama series: Ray Walston, ''Picket Fences,'' CBS Supporting actress, drama series: Juliana Margulies, ''ER,'' NBC Supporting actor, comedy series: David Hyde Pierce, ''Frasier,'' NBC Supporting actress, comedy series: Christine Baranski, ''Cybill,'' CBS - Associated Press '' Am I sorry? Of course. If I did the things that they said I did. Am I sorry, do I apologize? Yes. But it is time to get on and not look back.'' - Sen. Bob Packwood on CBS's ''Face the Nation,'' about the sexual harassment charges against him.