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Archive for Thursday, January 16, 1992

REGENTS, NATIONAL PANEL DECRY COLLEGE STUDENT PREPARATION

January 16, 1992

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— Inadequate preparation is the greatest obstacle American students must overcome to get a college degree, the head of a national commission on higher education said today.

"Number one is the lack of ability to pass tests to get in because K through 12 is so deficient," said former U.S. Sen. Paula Hawkins, who chairs the National Commission on Responsibilities for Financing Postsecondary Education.

"In addition to that, students are being forced to take on tremendous loans," she said. "And no one knows how much aid there is available because the system is too confusing."

The nine-member commission, appointed by Congress to recommend policy reforms for financing higher education in the year 2000, met today with members of the Kansas Board of Regents at Wichita State University. The commission will report to Congress in 1993.

REGENT Rick Harman told the commission that he believes the six regents' universities in Kansas also are grappling with too many students who aren't prepared for college-level work.

"One of our big problems is our students are coming in unable to deal with college curriculum," said Harman, an advocate of qualified admissions.

Jack Sampson, regents' chairman, said he was concerned that colleges could be swamped with students because the federal government might make it too easy for them to get large amounts of financial aid.

"I'm really worried we'll get into a situation where they go to school just because they can get the money," he said. "That philosophy bothers me."

Regent Charles Hostetler said the commission should consider ways of reducing student loan defaults and improving methods of collecting loan payments from former students.

LARRY Jones, chair of the Coleman Co. in Wichita and a member of the commission, said research indicates the people most at risk of defaulting on a federal student loan are those who drop out of college.

"Then I would recommend that a certain number of hours must be passed toward graduation in order to continue financial aid," Harman said. "If you flunk a lot of courses, you ought to face a hurdle at an early date."

Hawkins said some people who testified before the commission at previous hearings want the Internal Revenue Service to take over collection of student loan payments. That would take banks off the hook, she said.

"The IRS does a good job of collecting money. But a lot of banks have written us saying they don't want us to do that," Hawkins said.

JONES SAID testimony delivered at earlier meetings with representatives of state and federal government, higher education and the business world shed light on key problems related to financing higher education.

"There is evidence the system is relying on too much borrowing by low-income students," said Jones, a former Kansas regent. "This becomes a serious problem of defaults."

Jones said economic hardships experienced by middle-class families, and the lack of federal financial aid for those students, has restricted the students' choice of a college or university.

Financial aid programs have been inappropriately designed for young traditional students, Jones said. That flies in the face of evidence that an increasing number of older non-traditional students are enrolling in college, he said.

HAWKINS said another factor influencing financial aid programs is the growth of one-parent families.

"The single-parent family is blowing the system away," she said. "Society is changing faster than the Board of Regents can keep up with it."

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