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A penny saved could mean scholarship money earned, under a national campaign launched by a nonprofit education group.

Penny Lovers of America Inc. has announced the first of what it says will be an annual Penny Recycling Campaign, which aims to provide scholarships for disadvantaged students around the country while alleviating the nation's chronic shortage of pennies in circulation.

During the campaign, individuals in community groups, companies, and schools around the country are being asked to clean out their drawers, jars, and pockets for extra cents--which volunteers will then collect and deposit into a scholarship fund.

The group's scholarship committee will then either award individual scholarships, of an amount to be determined based on contributions, or donate money to existing scholarship programs.

The New Jersey-based group has set a national goal of 1 million pounds of pennies--or about $1.64 million. Each pound equals about $1.64, explained Richard E. Barber Sr., the volunteer group's president and founder, who works full-time in purchasing for a university.

"We think it's a rather unique way to generate scholarship funds, but it's also something that everyone can get involved in," he said.

Mr. Barber added that about 500 schools are currently participating in the penny drive. The group received a nod from Congress and President Clinton to declare a week last month as "National Penny Charity Week."

The campaign, begun in September, will extend through Dec. 31. More information is available from Penny Lovers of America, P.O. Box 6141, Somerset, N.J. 08873; (908) 873-3827.

Increasing Hispanic participation in higher education is a sound public investment, an issue paper by the Institute on Education and Training at RAND, a nonprofit policy research group, concludes.

The report says that Hispanics, who it projects could make up 20 percent of the U.S. population by 2020, are less likely than members of other ethnic or racial groups to complete at least a bachelor's degree, and therefore have lower lifetime earnings.

If the current generation of Hispanics from birth to age 18 earned bachelor's degrees at the same rate as whites currently earn, the study shows, Hispanics' increased earnings could generate about $10 billion in additional federal income-tax receipts each year.

The paper can be ordered by phone, (310) 451-7002, or by fax, (310) 451-6915, through RAND's distribution services.

--Jeanne Ponessa

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