Harvard Gets Increased Funding From Federal Budget Bill

Higher Ed measures funded, science grants rise

Harvard had its own financial aid package increased yesterday--as President Clinton signed into law a higher education spending bill which will provide more government money for student aid and science research.

The measure--an enormous conglomerate of eight spending bills, which among other things essentially pays for September's reauthorization of the Higher Education Act--passed the House of Representatives on Tuesday, and cleared the Senate early yesterday.

This bill's most tangible effect for undergraduates across the country will most likely be a $125 increase in the maximum Pell Grant a student can receive--from $3,000 to $3,125, effective next fall. The amount is a compromise between Senate and House bills passed this summer.

Pell Grants are essentially federal scholarships--government money given to needy undergraduates that does not have to be paid back. About 700 Harvard students received some amount of Pell Grant money last year, according to the Financial Aid office, adding up to about $1 million of Harvard's $41 million grant budget.

It is unclear how much more money Harvard will receive now--the Financial Aid office was unsure whether students not getting the maximum amount of Pell Grant money would be allotted a proportional increase.

But the backbone of Harvard's aid philosophy, a commitment to meet all of a student's demonstrated need, seems to mean Harvard students will not see an increase in their aid awards because of this bill.

Director of Financial Aid James S. Miller was unavailable for comment yesterday. Other officials said since each student's current aid package already meets all of that student's need, any extra money would simply take the place of Harvard grants--saving the University money but keeping individual awards the same.

This policy will continue even after the University's recent overhaul of its financial aid system, officials said, since federal grant money is not considered "outside scholarships" and therefore this increase will not be subtracted from "self-help" requirements like work-study and loans.

Another aid provision--announced in the Higher Education Act, but funded through this measure--is the ability of students at Harvard and other "direct lending"schools to refinance their student loans at ahistorically low interest rate.

Direct lendingmeans student loans come directly from theUniversity. Students and graduates who want torefinance at the new 7.46 percent interest ratemust do so before the end of January.

The old rate was 8.25 percent.

The other provision of the bill most likely toaffect Harvard is the allotment of about an extra$2 billion dollars for the National Institutes ofHealth (NIH)--the largest budget increase in thatagency's history.

"This is a tremendous boost for biomedicalresearch in the U.S.," said Laurie Broeder, aspokesperson for the Department of Health andHuman Services, NIH's parent agency in the federalgovernment.

And it could also be a big boost for theUniversity, which already received more than $174million in NIH funding last year--aroundtwo-thirds of all of Harvard's federal funding.

Harvard's Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS),Medical School and School of Public Health are themain beneficiaries of this funding.

And they could take advantage of the new outlayas well--individual research teams have to applyfor the money at a regular NIH grant applicationdeadline this fall.

While all of the NIH's research institutes willbenefit from this increase, Broeder saidNIH-funded research on cancer and the human genomewould benefit the most.

Funding for the National Endowment for the Artsand the National Endowment for the Humanities washeld steady