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BOSTON--State and federal governments should shoulder more of the costs of student financial aid, members of the New England Board of Education said at their annual fall meeting here.
The comments came at a forum titled, "The Financial Crisis Facing New England Colleges and Universities," which focused on the diversion of university endowments for use as capital funds.
According to Robert McKenna, president of the Rhode Island Independent Higher Education Assistance Corporation, officials of many universities misunderstand the purpose of endowments, which were originally established to "protect the education of future generations."
Universities which devote between 16 to 25 percent of their budgets to pay for financial aid "sacrifice the needs of the future to those of the moment," McKenna said.
All the board members said they have had to seek sources outside the university to finance higher education. But support from families and state and federal government have been increasingly inadequate in the recessionary years, they said.
"The family is extremely stressed. The federal and state government have a serious problem in commitment," said McKenna.
"There has been an enormous increase in the funds from the institution," he said.
And David C. Knapp, former president of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, was critical of what he said was higher education's longstanding tendency to divide rather than unite social classes.
"We are in danger of having two societies, one which is educated and one which is not," said Knapp. "The ones who get the loans and the ones who are wealthy will be educated."
Speakers also criticized the Massachusetts state government's tradition of defaulting on its annual dues.
"In New England, higher education is seen as a gubernatorial discretionary fund," said board member Andrew De Rocco, Connecticut commissioner of education.
But Knapp and McKenna said they were hopeful that President-elect Bill Clinton's administration would provide much needed funds for higher education.
"In the United States Senate, this region has a lot of power," McKenna said.
The New England Board of Higher Education is composed of faculty and administrative members of New England colleges and universities, regional business leaders and politicians who meet twice a year to discuss issues of interest to public and private institutions of higher learning.
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