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The A.T.&T. Foundation has awarded a $100,000 grant to launch a commission that will spend two years examining the finance systems of American colleges and universities.

The Council for Aid to Education, a New York City group that tracks private support of K-12 and higher education, is convening the Commission on National Investment in Higher Education.

The panel will study the flow of higher-education spending and revenues--both public and private--and recommend ways to restructure the two systems.

"Unless policymakers, education leaders, and business leaders are willing to tackle some difficult, contentious, and even disturbing questions about how we finance our higher-education system," said Judith S. Eaton, the council's president, "we run the risk of losing a national treasure and undermining our international competitiveness."

Joseph Dionne, the chairman of McGraw-Hill Inc., and Thomas Kean, the former Governor of New Jersey and the current president of Drew University, will co-chair the panel.

Among its other members will be: John Biggs, the chairman of Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association--College Retirement Equities Fund; Vartan Gregorian, the president of Brown University; D. Bruce Johnstone, the former chancellor of the State University of New York; Harold McGraw Jr., the chairman emeritus of McGraw Hill Inc; Diana Natalicio, the president of the University of Texas at El Paso; Piedad F. Robertson, Massachusetts' secretary of education; and John D. Zeglis, the senior vice president-general counsel and government affairs at A.T.&T.

Among the plethora of college guides on the market is a new one aimed at service-minded students.

The "Making a Difference College Guide" describes some 85 colleges and universities that provide community-service opportunities and offer majors in fields ranging from environmental studies to education to community health.

It profiles such well-known institutions as Wesleyan University and Sarah Lawrence College in addition to more obscure schools like Bemidji State University in Bemidji, Minn., and Eugene Lang College, named after the founder of the "I Have a Dream" Foundation and based at the New School for Social Research in New York City.

Copies of the guide are available for $15.45 each from Sage Press, 5224 San Anselmo Ave., #225, San Anselmo, Calif. 94960; (800) 218-4242.

--Meg Sommerfeld

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