Bush Clears H.E.A. Reauthorization; Law Increases Aid, Expands Eligibility
WASHINGTON--President Bush has signed legislation that authorizes more spending for college student aid, makes more students eligible for grants and loans, and creates financial-aid, teacher-training, and early-intervention programs.
The $115-billion measure, which takes effect Oct. 1, reauthorizes all programs under the Higher Education Act for five years. (See highlights box, this page.
The bill's signing last month ended nearly two years of political wrangling between the Democratic-controlled Congress and the Bush Administration.
Neither side got all that it wanted--the Democrats abandoned an expensive plan to make Pell Grants an entitlement, while the Administration accepted a direct-loan pilot program.
Still, the measure, S 1150, sailed to final passage in both chambers, winning approval by voice vote in the Senate and by a vote of 419 to 7 in the House.
Representative William D. Ford, the Michigan Democrat who chairs the House Education and Labor Committee and its Postsecondary Education Subcommittee, said the new law would help "hard-pressed working and middle-income families'' that "have seen the dream of a college education for their children slipping away.''
Representative Tom Coleman of Missouri, the subcommittee's ranking Republican, said the reauthorization bill "dramatically demonstrates that the legislative gridlock in Washington can be overcome and that government can be responsive to the needs of working Americans.''
The Administration had threatened several times to veto the bill, first because of the provision to make Pell Grants an entitlement, and later because of the provision creating a direct-loan pilot program.
Congressional Republicans deeply involved in the drafting of the bill, however, persuaded the President to back the final version.
"Our position was, 'We are opposed to direct loans,' and we still are,'' Secretary of Education Lamar Alexander told reporters. "What you do in the legislative process is take your position and take it as far as you can.''
Democrats, in turn, agreed to limit the experiment, which is expected to involve between 250 and 400 institutions, to a loan volume of $500 million.
Education lobbyists expressed mixed feelings about the bill.
"I think it will offer assistance to multitudes of students and families who weren't eligible in the past,'' said Becky Timmons, the director of Congressional liaison for the American Council on Education, a coalition of higher-education groups. "The downside of that is they'll be eligible for loans, primarily.''
The bill increases loan limits to $2,625 annually for first-year students, $3,500 for second-year students, and $5,500 for other undergraduates.
Also, for the first time, students will be eligible for unsubsidized federal loans.
In another first, the bill includes a program that rewards academic success, an idea espoused by Mr. Bush.
Frank Burtnett, the executive director of the National Association of College Admission Counselors, said the bill's early-intervention components are important "because the school counselor and the college counselor are the first point of contact for the student in the [college-admission] process.''
Penelope Earley, the senior director for government relations of the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, said she was pleased with the bill's new teacher-training provisions and its authorization of more than $600 million--including $20 million for the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards--for such programs.
Ms. Earley also applauded sections of the bill that encourage school-college partnerships and the recruitment and training of minority teachers.
However, she and other lobbyists noted that budgetary pressures
probably will prevent most, if not all, of the new programs from being
funded, at least in fiscal 1993.