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The Education Department plans to send letters to colleges and universities across the country notifying them that, for the time being, students do not have to register for the draft in order to receive federal financial aid.

Earlier this year, a federal district judge in Minnesota handed down a temporary injunction barring the department from enforcing a law enacted by the Congress late last year that would bar nonregistrants from receiving federal grants and loans.

In light of the injunction, the department's letter says, "no student may be denied ... student financial aid, or have his application for such aid rejected or delayed, by virtue of that student's failure to'' complete a form affirming that he has signed up for the draft.

The department goes on to note, however, that by completing the form now, "a student could avoid possible delay later in his receipt of ... student financial aid in the event that the preliminary injunction is dissolved."

A coalition of civil-rights groups accused the Reagan Administration last week of attempting to undermine regulations governing an executive order that requires federal contractors to implement affirmative-action programs.

The proposed "deregulation" of Executive Order 11246 "would result in the virtual dismantling of equal-employment opportunity requirements for federal contractors and thus [would] have a devastating impact on employment opportunities for women and minorities," said Althea T.L. Simmons, chairman of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, at a press conference in Washington.

It is estimated that 350,000 employers and more than 40 million workers nationwide--or about one-third of the workforce--are covered by the regulations. The civil-rights groups said these businesses received federal contracts totaling more than $100 billion in 1980.

According to the groups, the Labor Department's office of federal contract compliance, which oversees the implementation of the Presidential order, has drafted new regulations that would reduce the number of employers subject to the rules, make it harder for employees who win discrimination disputes to receive back pay, and increase the difficulty of bringing class-action lawsuits against companies.

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