News in Brief: A Washington Roundup
College-Loan Defaults Hit a Low
The federal student-loan program has reached its lowest default rate ever, according to figures from the Department of Education.
The updated default rate of 10.7 percent reflects the percentage of borrowers in the Federal Family Education Loan Program who were scheduled to begin making college-loan repayments in 1994 but defaulted in that year or in 1995. The rate was as high as 22.4 percent four years ago.
The Education Department said that it has cracked down on delinquent loans by garnisheeing paychecks, offsetting income-tax refunds, and working with collection agencies. In the past four years, the department has also stopped 672 schools with high default rates from qualifying for federal loan programs.
A spokeswoman for the Coalition for Student Loan Reform, a Washington group that represents state and private nonprofit guaranteed-loan providers, credited reforms passed by Congress in the late 1980s for starting the trend toward a lower default rate.
ED Encourages Civil Rights Reporting
The Department of Education is reminding school administrators that while some of its paperwork is in limbo, they should keep collecting records needed for civil rights enforcement.
To help the department enforce anti-discrimination laws and identify related trends in schools, the office for civil rights conducts a biennial survey of schools and school districts. The agency uses the survey to learn a good deal about how schools treat minority children--if schools are disproportionately disciplining them or are more prone to assign them to special education, for example.
Faced with a dwindling budget, the OCR suspended the 1996 survey while it redesigns the process. ("ED To Revise District Survey of Civil Rights," Dec. 11, 1996.)
In a Dec. 30 letter sent to state schools chiefs and public school superintendents, Assistant Secretary Norma V. Cantu called on schools to continue maintaining civil rights records for this school year and explained the OCR's redesign plan.
Head Start Fellowships Launched
The Department of Health and Human Services has issued final rules creating the Head Start Fellows, a program designed to provide training for the federal preschool program. The program will include a $1 million annual budget that will pay stipends to people chosen to work for one year as fellows. According to the Jan. 10 Federal Register, the fellows will be chosen from local Head Start programs to work in local Head Start agencies, colleges, local family and children's groups, or the national office. The rules for the program take effect Feb. 10. ... The nominating committee of the National Assessment Governing Board, the panel that sets policy for the tests known as the National Assessment of Educational Progress, will meet in Denver on Feb. 11 in a closed session to discuss potential nominees to the panel.