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Vol.24, No. 01 Sept. 4, 1998

LEGISLATIVE UPDATE: More than $116 Million Is at Stake for Columbia in House and Senate Bills

By Ellen S. Smith --

At stake for Columbia students in pending legislation is nothing less than over $100 million in Federal Family Education Loans, close to $2 million in Pell grants for undergraduates, more than $7.5 million in Federal Work Study funds and over $6.5 million in Perkins loans.

All these programs - which contribute student aid to Columbia - will be in the proposed Higher Education Reauthorization Act, two versions of which are being debated by legislators. One bill was generated in the House, the other in the Senate. The Senate bill contains more graduate student aid funding than the House bill.

Graduate students could be most negatively affected by the House bill's cutbacks in fellowship programs for students in the arts and the humanities and programs for minority students. The Senate's three-part graduate program would be most advantageous for Columbia's graduate students, offering continued Javits fellowships for the arts and humanities, fellowships similar to the current graduate assistance in areas of national need and a new minority faculty development fellowship.

Upon their return early this month, members of the House and Senate who serve on education committees will meet to hammer out an agreement on the two versions of the act. Once approved - which is expected by the end of September - the legislation will set the blueprint for most student aid programs over the next five years.

Despite these threats to graduate aid, much of the news is good. Both bills call for increased Pell grants for students, reductions in interest rates for guaranteed loans, increased funds for the TRIO programs such as Upward Bound and increased Work Study funds.

International education is also covered in both bills, including fellowships, centers for international business and education and area studies centers. The eventual law may have some changes to campus crime reporting and require additional reporting on the costs of higher education.

Also this fall, Congress may have an opportunity to address some small tax provisions. If so, it is hoped the legislature's champions of employer-provided educational assistance for graduate students (Section 127), may again fight to allow annual tax-free tuition of $5,250.

For further information on the Higher Education Reauthorization Act, annual funding bills and Section 127, please contact Ellen S. Smith, assistant vice president and director of federal relations,