News in Brief: A Washington Roundup

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Former Virgina Official Gets Postsecondary Job

Wilbert Bryant, formerly Virginia's secretary of education, has landed a job in Washington.

Mr. Bryant is the Department of Education's new deputy secretary for postsecondary education. In that job, he will help oversee all student aid, higher education regulations, and other postsecondary matters.

Mr. Bryant, 61, served during the administration of outgoing Gov. James S. Gilmore III, a Republican. During his four years as Virginia's top education official, Mr. Bryant oversaw the state's Standards of Learning, a set of academic standards that many schools have struggled to meet.

He's already well-known in Washington as a top voice in the Education Leaders Council, a group of state and local education officials.

Mr. Bryant served in the U.S. Army for almost 28 years and reached the rank of colonel.

—Joetta L. Sack

Pell Grant Ceiling Raised to $4,000

Senate and House lawmakers have agreed to increase the maximum Pell Grant, the popular federal financial-aid program for students from low-income families.

The boost from $3,750 to $4,000 was a victory for a coalition of 60 higher education associations that pushed for an increase they called more important than ever during the economic downturn.

Lawmakers in the end found the money to increase the grants after the White House Office of Management and Budget issued a report warning that unexpected demand for the grants should preclude raising the maximum award.

Students will be able to receive the new maximum award beginning in the 2002-03 academic year. According to a recent College Board report, students at four-year public institutions pay an average of $3,754 a year in tuition.

The average Pell Grant, the report noted, currently covers about 40 percent of the costs at four-year public colleges and 15 percent at four-year private colleges.

—John Gehring

Reservists Get Repayment Window

Congress has approved a bill that grants military reservists called to active duty extra time to pay off college loans.

"This legislation will provide relief for the men and women of our military who are defending the freedoms of this great nation," said Rep. Howard P. "Buck" McKeon, R-Calif., a leading proponent of the plan.

A final version of the bill passed the House and Senate unanimously last month.

It would permit the secretary of education to grant waivers for reservists, allowing them to defer federal student-loan payments until they return from active duty.

In addition, the bill aims to help those directly affected by the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. It would allow the secretary to extend repayment terms and deadlines on federal student loans for victims and their families.

As of last week, President Bush had not yet signed the bill into law, but he is expected to do so.

—Erik W. Robelen

Department Prevails in Loan Dispute

A federal appeals court has sided with the Department of Education in a long-running dispute with an Idaho agency over the department's authority to stop doing business with guarantors of student loans.

The dispute began in 1994, when the Student Loan Fund of Idaho, a private, nonprofit agency that guaranteed college loans for students in that state, stopped backing new loans. The Education Department demanded that the agency shift its loan portfolio to a guarantee agency in Washington state, but the Idaho agency refused.

Then-Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley said the department would stop reimbursing the agency for defaulted loans.

A federal district court ruled in 1999 that the Idaho agency had a contractual right to keep its student-loan portfolio. But in a Dec. 4 decision, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, in San Francisco, ruled for the Education Department.

A three-judge panel of the court ruled unanimously that once the Idaho agency dropped its status as a guarantor of new federal student loans, it lost its right to keep its loan portfolio and receive default reimbursements from the government.

—Mark Walsh

Meetings on Student Aid Set

The Department of Education has announced new meetings to discuss rules and regulations for student financial aid.

Department officials and Rep. Howard P. "Buck" McKeon, R-Calif., are hoping to find ways to cut red tape associated with the college-loan program. The meetings, which will involve members of the higher education community, student groups, and interested members of the public, will be held in Washington the weeks of Jan. 14, March 4, and April 22. The first such meeting was held last month.

Rep. McKeon, who chairs the House subcommittee that handles most higher education issues, established the FED.UP project in 2000 to identify regulations that were deemed overly burdensome for schools and students.

—Joetta L. Sack

Vol. 21, Issue 16, Page 23

Published in Print: January 9, 2002, as News in Brief: A Washington Roundup
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