Senate Limits Student Aid Cuts

Harvard to Save $1.2M Annually in Tax, Grace Period for Student Loans Spared

In last-minute concessions to insure passage of its balanced-budget bill--and in response to massive student protest--the Republican leadership in the Senate agreed yesterday to eliminate over $5 billion in proposed cuts to federal student loans.

Student leaders and school administrators said they were encouraged by the Senate action, but were quick to note that no such concessions have been made across the Capitol. The House of Representatives yesterday passed a balanced-budget bill, which still includes severe cuts in federal aid.

"This is very good news," Vice-President for Government, Community, and Public Affairs James H. Rowe Ill '73 said. "We have more hurdles to overcome in the next few weeks."

The Senate is expected to vote on its modified balanced-budget bill today. Both Houses will then conference before sending a final bill to President Bill Clinton, who has threatened a veto.

According to a statement released by Rowe yesterday, total cuts to the student loan program by the Senate are now less than $5 billion. Original proposals outlined cuts of over $10 billion.


The Senate's amended bill, which passed by a 99-0 vote, eliminates the institutional tax on colleges, which would have cost Harvard $1.2 million annually.

Director of Undergraduate Financial Aid James S. Miller said last night that he was excited to see the Senate reverse direction.

"I'm gratified, certainly," Miller said. "We've been very concerned. This outcome certainly gives us some hope."

Also eliminated from the Senate bill was the proposed interest rate increase in the PLUS loan program for parents. And the full grace period interest exemption for students after they graduate was restored.

"We will now work to have the Senate position prevail in conference over the House proposal, in which the grace period is eliminated and the parent loan interest rate increases remain," said Rowe in his statement.

The Senate bill still includes a cut in direct loan lending, which could force some schools to look elsewhere for financial aid funding. The House has proposed to eliminate this program completely.

Rowe's statement said the Senate's sudden reversal came after "continued pressure from colleges and students."

And that pressure will continue. On Tuesday, students from across the state plan to protest the proposed cuts at the Boston statehouse.

The 11:00 a.m. rally has been endorsed by several student organizations. Taking a rare stand on a political issue, the Undergraduate Council has endorsed the rally and allocated $100 to promote the event on campus.

Eric D. Albert '98, treasurer of the Progressive Action Network (PAN), which is helping to mobilize students at Harvard for the event, said he expects no plans for the rally to change in light of the Senate's recent move.

"It's fantastic, but we need to do more to get the House in line with the Senate," Albert said. "The Senate has moved forward for students--that's a good thing. But the House version is still the same."