Financial Aid Debate Is Raging

News Feature

As the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate continue to debate the future of financial aid funding, University officials are expressing optimism that significant scalebacks will not become reality for Harvard.

Even so, a new White House study suggests that current Congressional proposals could prove quite burden-some for Harvard students paying for school with loans.

This week the Senate will consider proposal to impose a tax on all loans made by universities to students. If it became law, that measure would be a "terrible precedent" for a University that doles out about $60 million in loans every year, according to Nan F. Nixon, Harvard's director of governmental relations and a full-time Washington lobbyist.

As the debate rages, the outlook for Harvard seems to be improving.

Pell Grants in particular have so far been spared. In fact, both the House and the Senate passed bills raising the maximum grant by $100, from $2,340 to $2,440. That increase represents the largest per-student increase in history, according to spokesperson for Rep. Bop Livingston (R-La.), chair of the House Appropriations Committee.


In order to fund that increase, the House approved a measure raising the minimum Pell Grant from $400 to $600. Under this plan, students who receive grants of between $400 and $599 would no longer be eligible for the grant.

House Republicans have championed those measures as helping those who are in most dire need.

"If you're receiving $400-$600, you're not as needy," says Elizabeth A. Morra, a spokesperson for the House Appropriations Committee. "The idea is to target the federal dollars to students who are most needy."

Democrats have blasted the Pell Grant proposals, emphasizing that the GOP plan cuts the overall appropriation for Pell Grants by $482 million and drops 280,000 students from the program.

"As grants are denied to deserving students and as individual loan debts skyrocket, millions of students will no longer be able to go to college," Senator Edward M. Kennedy '54-'56 said in a statement last week.

The Senate did not raise the minimum Pell Grant, and Harvard officials say they hope the Senate proposal wins out and the grant emerges from the joint conference committee at its current minimum level.

As Congress haggles over levels of Pell Grants, the funding for Perkins Loans is also up in the air.

As usual, the pool of funds from repaid loans will be made available for new loans. The Senate has proposed $100 million in new money for the loans, while the House passed a measure calling for no capital contri-

As the debate over student aid rages in Washington, Harvard's prospects are looking marginally better. But there's still trouble on the horizon...bution.

Democrats have charged that the failure to make a capital contribution would deny the campus-based, low-interest loans to about 150,000 students, according to a memo Democrats are currently circulating in Washington.

In the meantime, a committee of House Republicans has proposed keeping intact certain measures that had been likely candidates for the budget axe in recent months.