In its first broad-ranging discussion of new ways to fund financial aid programs, a federal commission on student aid heard testimony Tuesday from experts who suggested the total decentralization of the government's loan and grant programs in order to cut administrative costs.
Aid offices, college presidents, and bankers criticized the present aid system at a day-long public hearing at the John F. Kennedy Library in Columbia Point, and many urged campuses to take over administration of both the Guaranteed Student Loan and the Pell Grant 'Programs, which distributes direct grants of up to $1670 to needy students.
"The bureaucracy has buried our financial aid offices in paper," panelist David Irwin, executive director of the Washington Friends of Higher Education, concurred.
Others expressed the belief that enabling as many financially strapped students as possible to attend the college of their choice should be a top priority for institutions.
But almost all went on to criticize the current federal program's inefficiency and expense, and to propose ways of combating in aid distribution over the next few years.
For every dollar the government lends a student through the Washington-based GSI., it spends another dollar in administrative coats, estimated William O'Hara, president of the Bryant College of Business Administration, in testimony before the National Commission on Student Financial Aid (NCSFA).
NCSFA was established by the Carter Administration in 1980 to work out a coherent policy for the then-uncontrollably burgeoning federal aid programs.
Since then, threatened cuts and confusion over which programs would be available have delayed any serious discussion of financial aid's practical problems, commission members said. President Bok was invited to testify at the hearing but declined.
In the course of testimony, panelists and witnesses also raised possibilities such as shifting responsibility for collecting on student loans, restricting aid eligibility by incorporating high school grades or scores into the need analysis formula, or expanding current work-study programs so that students could work for private as well as nonprofit employers.
Northeastern University President Kenneth G. Ryder, acting chairman of the commission, said afterwards that he foresees "a gigantic tension of opposing views" ahead before the group can agree on recommendations.