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The federal government must use its resources to help stem the "alarming" rise in youth suicides, legislators and health experts told a House committee last week.

Witnesses testified before the House Education and Labor Committee on two bills, both aimed at informing the public about youth suicide and supplementing community and school suicide-prevention efforts.

About 6,000 young people between the ages of 15 and 24 committed suicide last year, according to national health statistics.

A bill (HR 1099) introduced by Representative Gary Ackerman, Democrat of New York, would authorize $10 million annually over a three-year period to help local education agencies design, organize, and operate suicide-prevention programs. No group or school board could receive more than $100,000 a year.

The second bill, HR 1894, introduced by Representative Tom Lantos, Democrat of California, would establish a national commission for the study of youth suicide and set up a program of grants for suicide-prevention programs to be administered by the Department of Health and Human Services. The bill calls for a total allocation of $31.5 million over three years.

Senate hearings began last week on the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act of 1965, as the Education, Arts, and Humanities Subcommittee heard testimony from college presidents and from students and parents who have benefited from federal aid.

In an opening statement, the subcommittee chairman, Senator Robert T. Stafford, Republican of Vermont, said the twin aims of the federal government should be "access and choice" in higher education. In a recent newspaper interview, however, Undersecretary of Education Gary L. Bauer said federal programs should promote "access" but not necessarily "choice."

Senator Stafford has previously sparred over higher-education funding with Secretary of Education William J. Bennett, who has advocated deep cuts in the program. Mr. Bennett is expected to unveil his plan for new higher-education legislation--which is now being reviewed by the Office of Management and Budget--in testimony before the subcommittee next month.

Meanwhile, the House Postsecondary Education Subcommittee continues its hearings on the legislation--which will expire next September--and is expected to begin drafting a bill in coming weeks.

Vol. 05, Issue 03

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