Report questions idea of service to repay college loans

February 03, 1993|By Newsday

A national commission's report to be released today casts doubt on the idea of letting hundreds of thousands of college graduates pay off loans through public service -- an idea popularized by President Clinton during his election campaign.

The report, titled "Making College Affordable Again," calls instead for guaranteeing each student an annual aid package of up to $14,000 and for doubling federal grants to students on the ground that overemphasis on loans has already saddled many graduates with huge debts.

Federal spending on student grants, the panel said, should be doubled, to about $13 billion annually, to benefit poor and middle-income students. It notes that the current grant program is so underfunded that no student can receive more than $2,300, even though the authorized maximum is $3,400 a student.

David Merkowitz, a spokesman for the American Council on Education, also cited a practical matter: "It's not that you want to cut off that [public service] as an option. It's just that a single mother with one or two children may not be able to devote her life to that."

Clinton aides say no decision has been reached on how many college graduates will be offered the service option. "But I think it's fair to say the president is dead-serious about national service," said Bill Galston, a deputy White House assistant.

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