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Candidates Speak Out on Education

By Chris Schechter
Staff Reporter

Candidates in today's presidential primary have expressed a wide range of views on several issues related to higher education, including the financing and distribution of Pell grants, the spread of political correctness on college campuses, and preferential consideration of minority students.

Several candidates differ on the financing and distribution of Pell grants. President Bush wants to ensure adequate funding without making the program an entitlement, according to his spokesman in New Hampshire. The president had made a $6.6 billion budget request for 1993 for such grants, a 2.2 percent increase from this year. Bush also favors using grades to determine eligibility for these grants. He proposes that every school should be free to submit minimum academic standards for the approval of the secretary of education.

Both Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton and former Massachusetts Sen. Paul E. Tsongas both would like to completely eliminate the present grant structure. According to The Chronicle of Higher Education, Clinton proposes a "General Issue Bill" that would allow every American student to borrow funds from the government and repay the loans after graduation. Clinton's office in Boston said that if Clinton is elected, he would introduce legislation giving universal access to college for anyone who desires it.

Tsongas suggests a comparable program under which the government would enable students to take out loans to cover the cost of their education. He would extend his loans to everyone. Neither Tsongas nor Clinton favors grades as a selection criterion.

Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin and Nebraska Sen. Bob Kerry favor making more money available for Pell grants while retaining the program's present structure. Harkin would like to see grants, rather than loans, become the major source of federal student aid. His position differs from Bush's in his suggestion that the selection process favor students who take challenging courses and not students with higher grades.

Kerry would base his program exclusively on merit, but campaign staffers did not discuss any details.

Only a few candidates considered political correctness to be a major campus issue. Bush believes the trend is a genuine problem in American higher education today. Campaign spokespeople said the president fears that intolerance to conservative ideas is taking root in too many campuses today, and stresses that students are the ones who stand to lose the most from this intolerance. Bush rejects any regulation prohibiting individuals from voicing unpopular ideas. Kerry shares these views, his staffers said.

Clinton's spokesman in Boston said political correctness is not "a real problem." Harkin also puts little emphasis on the issue, but he rejects any rules that would restrict free speech, according to the Chronicle, which also reported that Tsongas believes rules prohibiting offensive speech can be carefully drawn.