The Higher Education Act: New Step in Federal Aid

The passage of the $2.3 billion Higher Education Bill by the 89th Congress on October 20 heralds a new role for the federal government in higher education: it marks the fruition of more than a decade of idea-formentation and promotion by college professors and administrators.

The omnibus legislation was designed to strengthen developing institutions, turn the resources of the universities toward the problems of the urbanized community and make a college education a genuine possibility for all capable high school graduates. If it succeds, it could be the century's most important development in higher education,--more significant than the Land-Grant College and the G.I. Bill of Rights combined.

In outline, the Higher Education Act's seven titles (with an $841.4 million appropriation for 1966) affect everything from improving the cataloguing system of the Library of Congress to protecting campus fraternities from federal anti-discrimination rules. Its main features are:

* a long-range program to assist in the solution of community problems in areas such as housing, poverty, recreation, employment, transportation, and health through extension courses and training and consulting services.

* a series of basic grants to college libraries, plus supplemental grants made on the basis of library needs, and the ratio of students to library resources.

* financial aid to establish cooperative arrangements between "struggling" (mainly Southern Negro col-colleges) and larger schools (faculty exchanges, joint use of facilities, etc.) including a program of "National Teaching Fellowships" for qualified graduate students and junior faculty members to teach in developing colleges for two-year periods.

* a multilevel program of financial assistance for students, the "heart" of the bill, which includes scholarships of up to $1000, guaranteed educational loans with reduced interest rates, and an extensive work-study program.

* a National Teacher Corps of 6,000 professional teachers, either alone or in teams, which would provide teaching services in urban and rural school districts with high concentrations of low-income families. (Appropriations for the Teacher Corps for this year were voted down by Congress, but will probably be included in the supplemental appropriations bill of next spring.)

Where the Money Goes

Federal aid to higher education is, of course, nothing revolutionary. Almost $2 billion a year already goes to scientific research projects at U.S. universities, comprising more than two-thirds of their total research funds. But this money goes almost entirely to the larger, established schools with extensive graduate programs and research facilities. Half of all such grants, for example, go to only 20 universities. Among these, Harvard ranks fourth in amounts received; since 1960, federal money has risen from a quarter to a third of total in come at the University.

Because almost all of the act's provisions are designed to aid students and support "developing" institutions, they will have little immediate application to Harvard. The $5000 matching-grant to all college libraries, for example, would hardly pay a day's salaries at mammoth Widener, and any appropriation based on existing library resources is likely to put Harvard last on the list.

There are several provisions of the Higher Education Act that could apply to Harvard, but the University has so far expressed no intention of making use of them. The provision for subsidizing cooperation between rich and "struggling" colleges, for example might be used to give financial support to Harvard's two-year-old Miles College Project of informal teacher and student exchanges. Or Harvard might ask for funds under the "community services" title of the Act to improve and expand its program of extension courses or, possibly, to subsidize PBH tutoring programs.

Though the legislation itself is new, --especially the measures for financial aid--the ideas have been talked about at universities for a long time. Studies and evaluations over the past 10 years by individual colleges and by the American Council on Education have pointed the way toward most of the measures included in the final bill.

Work-study programs, such as that worked out at Harvard by Dean Monro and Dustin M. Burke- '52 director of Student Employment, for example, have served as prototypes for the recent government proposals. And the larger universites have not been the only ones to play a part in laying the groundwork for national change; Dean Monroe cites the University of Southern Illinois as a small college with an excellent work-finance program that contributed to the planning.

Attempts at solving financial problems of higher education have not islation. When Senator Abraham always led to sound proposals for leg-Ribicoff of Connecticut proposed as income tax reduction for families supporting college students, educators--including Dean Monro--pointed out that the measure would bring relief only to middle- and upper-class families. In addition to placing a burden on the Treasury, opponents of the measure argued, the proposal would do nothing to aid those families who could not afford to send children to college in the first place. Monro feels the present scholarship-loan-work program is far more valuable and is aimed more at meeting the needs of those who would otherwise be excluded from a higher education