The University Record, March 15, 1993

Universities to play important role in Clinton’s initiatives

By Laurie Fenlason
Office of Federal Relations

It has a noble, if not catchy, name, widely-supported goals, a high-profile “czar,” its own White House office and considerable post-campaign momentum—and expectations—to drive it.

All that’s missing from President Bill Clinton’s well-received national service plan are some of the particulars: who, where, when and, financially speaking, how much. Hints of answers to these questions began to emerge last week as details of the program’s inaugural phase—the Summer of Service—were released.

As early as June, according to the president’s plan, approximately 1,800 college students will begin working in as many as 10 communities nationwide in programs serving the health, education, environmental and safety needs of at-risk children.

Such programs might include delinquency prevention, tutoring, immunization outreach to families with infants and toddlers, and testing water and paint for lead contamination.

Students will be paid minimum wage; upon completion of the nine and one-half-week program, they will receive a scholarship of $1,000 to be applied toward college tuition or job training.

More than a demonstration program, the Summer of Service is expected to produce the first generation of “national service leaders” who will then train the first class of full-year service-providers. The summer will begin with a leadership training course and conclude with a “youth summit” to be attended by Clinton.

Higher education is a key player in Clinton’s plan. Summer of Service programs will be run jointly by colleges and universities and community organizations such as youth corps, local non-profit groups, public schools and government agencies.

The Commission on National and Community Service, chaired by Indiana University President Thomas Ehrlich, will administer the competition for grant funds. Because of the looming application deadline—April 1—preference is expected to be given to established programs with demonstrated benefits for children.

“The U-M and the greater university community, particularly the land-grant colleges, are actively participating in discussions to help shape an effective service program,” says Thomas A. Butts, associate vice president for government relations and director of the University’s Washington office.

Butts notes that hundreds of colleges and universities, including the U-M, have already begun building the “infrastructure” for Clinton’s National Service Trust Fund by leading the movement toward direct lending. Under the plan, the federal government would provide private capital for student loans, bypassing consumer banks, guarantee agencies and secondary marketers.

Direct lending would facilitate an income-contingent repayment option for student loans as well as the forgiveness of loans in exchange for national service. In the next few months, as the summer program takes shape, Clinton is expected to propose his larger, year-round vision of national service to Congress in the form of a four-year package that would enroll 25,000 participants in 1994 and as many as 100,000 in 1997.

Critics say these figures are far lower than the number of financially needy college students but the administration contends that it is close to the number who would actually elect community service.

College graduates would receive $10,000 toward student loan repayment for every year of service, up to $20,000, plus a stipend, health benefits and child care.

High school graduates who want to serve before college, or who do not attend college, would also receive a “post-service benefit” for each year of service to be applied toward vocational education or job training.

In addition, Clinton’s program would assist an unlimited number of college graduates who wish to provide public service through more traditional paths, such as careers in teaching, community development or public health. Students who graduate with high loan debt who want to go into teaching, for example, could select a loan repayment schedule more closely tailored to their income level than traditional fixed payment plans.