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Administration May Alter Student Loan-Proposal

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Washington--A key Education Department official conceded last week that Congressional opposition may force the department to back away from a budget proposal that would limit Guaranteed Student Loan funds to students whose family income is below $32,500.

The official, Gary L. Bauer, deputy undersecretary for planning, budget, and evaluation, said the department would consider a flexible cap that would take into account "mitigating factors"--such as whether a family has more than one child at an expensive private institution--but would seek comparable savings in other programs. Under the current proposal, the $32,500 figure would constitute an absolute barrier to a student's access to the federally subsidized loans.

Mr. Bauer made his comments during and after Secretary of Education William J. Bennett's first news conference.

At the news conference and in4subsequent comments last week, Mr. Bennett said he would strongly support the President's 1986 budget plan on Capitol Hill, but Senator Robert T. Stafford, the Vermont Republican who chairs the Senate education subcommittee, has called the gsl proposal "ludicrous" and said he would oppose it.

Field Hearings

Meanwhile, the Democratic chairman of the House Education Committee, Representative Augustus F. Hawkins of California, took his campaign against the President's proposed education budget cuts out of Washington, to field hearings in New Orleans, Los Angeles, and New York City over the past week.

The hearings were held by the Subcommittee on Elementary, Secondary, and Vocational Education, which is also chaired by Representative Hawkins.

In remarks prepared for the Feb. 14 meeting in New Orleans, Representative Hawkins said, "The federal role in education should be this nation's fundamental concern, and any attempt to reduce its responsibilities and obligations is a threat to our economic security and our national defense."

Effect of Budget Cuts

Documents prepared for the field hearings by the House committee criticize the President's proposed $15.5-billion fiscal 1986 Education Department budget for "locking in the cuts in education which have occurred over the last four years."

The President's budget calls for a spending freeze in the major elementary- and secondary-education programs, but the documents add that school districts will have to absorb the cost of inflation, which is estimated to be about 4 percent.

The committee's document also claims that the $32,500 family income cap for gsl would render ineligible between 750,000 and 900,000 current loan recipients.--jh

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