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Ellen Smith, assistant vice president, represents and informs the Univesity on issues such as financial aid, Medicare and Medicaid, research funds and tax policies as they pertain to higher education.

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VOL. 23, NO. 2September 12, 1997


Congress Reconvenes in Washington, Begins Work on Reauthorizing the Higher Education Act

By Ellen S. Smith

The House and the Senate reconvened in Washington last week to finish work on the annual bills that fund governmental agencies and programs. It is expected that the bills will be finished by the last week in September or shortly thereafter for the start of the federal 1998 fiscal year.

  Research funding in all federal agencies for Oct. 1, 1997-Sept. 30, 1998 and student aid for 1998-99 are among the areas being addressed.

  No firm date has yet been set for adjournment of the first session of the 105th Congress. Late October or early November is the likely target date.

  House and Senate Commit-tees will also be working on the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act. This bill sets broad parameters for student financial aid (loan programs and Pell grants) for up to five years.

State Student Aid

  In early August, four months after the start of New York State's fiscal year, action was completed on the state's 1997 budget, allowing student aid for New York's students to be awarded. A student lobby trip to Albany in March helped to convince legislators and the Governor that funds needed to be restored to student aid programs targeted for reduction. Senior Columbia administrators were also in Albany to work on components of the budget that affected the medical center and other parts of the University.

  Funds were increased for direct institutional aid (formerly known as Bundy aid) and $1 million was added for the Higher Educational Opportunity Program (HEOP). Originally proposed reductions in the Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) and Science and Technology Entry Program (STEP) program were restored.

  The Medical Center's Dental Clinic received increased funding, as did funding for positions and programs at the New York State Psychiatric Institute. The State Energy Assistance Loan Program will continue to provide support for independent colleges and universities. The Dormitory Authority will now also allow private universities to lease equipment through its auspices.

  For further information, please contact Ellen S. Smith, assistant vice president and director of federal relations at ess9@columbia.edu.