A Senate subcommittee has unveiled its version of a sweeping overhaul of the federal student aid program.
The bill would guarantee bigger grants for college students and make loans more accessible for middle-income families.
The bill does not, however, include a radical change in the administration of the student loan program that was proposed in the House version, which was approved earlier this month.
If the present subcommittee bill is approved by the Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee and the full Senate, the differences with the House bill must be ironed out in conference.
The proposals are part of the process of reauthorizing the Higher Education Act of 1965, the legislation governing the $13 billion-a-year federal student aid program used by half the nation's college students.
The following provisions are included in the bill from the subcommittee on education, the arts and humanities, chaired by Sen. Claiborne Pell, D-R.I.:
* The Pell grant, the major federal grant for college students, would become a permanent budget item, and the maximum award would increase from $3,100 per student to $4,000 next year and to $5,200 by 1999.
* Federally guaranteed student loans would become more accessible for middle-income families. In determining their eligibility, families with incomes of more than $50,000 a year would now be able to exclude the value of their house.
The bill also would increase the maximum amount that can be borrowed -- from $17,250 to $21,000 -- over four years, and would streamline the application process for federal student aid, which is now seen as overly complicated.
* Rules for institutional eligibility would be tightened, so that colleges and trade schools with high default rates are excluded.
Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., chairman of the Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee, said the government was obligated to provide bigger grants because the cost of college had soared.