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As President Clinton and his advisers assess the U.S. workforce and develop a federal workforce strategy, they should carefully study how postsecondary institutions can be used to implement such a strategy, a group of higher-education associations said last week.

"We urge the Administration to view postsecondary education and training programs in terms of the needs of the clientele to be served; to fashion a comprehensive strategy integrating federal, state, and private programs that best meet the varying needs of the participants; and to integrate workforce goals and financial-assistance programs in a manner that recognizes that different kinds of financing mechanisms will be required for the different types of education and training demanded,'' six associations said in a letter to the Administration.

They said dropouts and high school graduates who need training in basic skills should receive help through adult-education programs, federal and state skills centers, and such programs as Job Corps--not through financial aid.

High school graduates who plan on two years or less of postsecondary skills training are best served by apprenticeships, job training, and cooperative-education programs, the groups contended.

Those pursuing undergraduate, graduate, or professional degrees should receive student-aid support, the document says. At-risk students should not be required to take out as many loans as other students, and unsubsidized loans should be available to high-income students, the letter recommends.

In addition, the associations endorsed such alternative loan-payment options as income-contingent repayment and loan forgiveness for students undertaking community or national service.

Much of the nation's population growth during the 1980's occurred in such states as California, Florida, Texas, Arizona, Nevada, and Utah, where students attending independent higher-education institutions represent a small fraction of the state's total enrollment, the demographer Harold L. Hodgkinson told a gathering last week of officials from the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities.

Moreover, he said, states with many independent institutions--New York, Illinois, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Massachusetts, and Indiana--had virtually no population growth.

Speaking at the NAICU annual meeting, Mr. Hodgkinson said independent institutions must either diversify, reduce their missions and get smaller, or accept students from their regions who would otherwise not qualify.

Mr. Hodgkinson's report is his third for NAICU.--M.P.

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