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The Justice Department has expanded its investigation of possible antitrust violations by colleges and universities. Fifty-five institutions have acknowledged being asked to submit information to the department, according to a survey by The Chronicle of Higher Education.

The department has refused to disclose the names of the schools under investigation, or to say what prompted the inquiry.

Targets of the investigation include members of the Overlap Group, an organization of Ivy League schools and other selective Northeastern colleges and universities that meets annually to share financial-aid information.

Other institutions that have received requests for information from the department include members of the Great Lakes Colleges Association, a consortium of private liberal-arts colleges in the Midwest; several women's colleges; and a number of other selective institutions around the country, including Northwestern University, Stanford University, and the University of Southern California.

Meanwhile, a Wesleyan University student has filed a class action in federal court alleging tuition-fixing by his school and 11 other colleges and universities involved in the federal probe.

The suit by Roger Kingsepp was filed in U.S. District Court in New York. It seeks triple damages for alleged overcharges on behalf of all the students who have been affected by tuition decisions at the 12 institutions.

American Indians need a larger funding set-aside under the federal vocational-education program, witnesses have told a Senate committee.

Indian-education advocates testified before a Senate panel last month in favor of amending the Carl D. Perkins Vocational Education Act to double a set-aside dedicated to Indian education.

The amendment to the vocational-education bill, S496, would increase the annual set-aside from its current 1.5 percent to 3 percent.

A portion of the increase would be earmarked to support what educators described as the nation's only tribally controlled postsecondary vocational-training institutions--the Crownpoint Institute of Technology in New Mexico and the United Tribes Technical College in North Dakota. The measure would also provide $500,000 to establish a national Indian center for research in vocational-technical training.

The measure's sponsor, Senator Jeff Bingaman, Democrat of New Mexico, told members of the Senate Select Committee on Indian Affairs that the increases were "vitally important" to combating high unemployment rates on tribal lands.

The Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee last week approved nominees to fill two top positions in the Education Department.

The panel backed Christopher T. Cross as assistant secretary for educational research and improvement and Leonard Haynes 3rd as assistant secretary for postsecondary education.

States have not thoroughly enforced a 1988 law that requires schools participating in two special-commodities projects that are part of the school-lunch program to purchase only American food products, the General Accounting Office has found.

The cash-payment and commodity letters-of-credit systems, established as demonstration projects in 1981, provide a limited number of school districts with funds and letters of credit, respectively, equal to the value of the commodities they would have otherwise received from the Department of Agriculture.

A bill to reauthorize the school-lunch program, which is expected to be adopted this week, would extend the two demonstration projects through 1994.

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