Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Administration: Front-Loading Will Ease Financial Burden on Poorer Students

Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Administration: Front-Loading Will Ease Financial Burden on Poorer Students

Article excerpt

WASHINGTON -- The Clinton administration may revive a long-dormant idea that holds some appeal for advocates of students of color -- the "front-loading" of financial aid to first- and second-year college students.

Under front-loading, the U.S. Department of Education would focus grant aid primarily on college freshmen and sophomores so they need not take out large loans early in their post-secondary careers.

Supporters say it would lessen the burden on low-income students during their first months of college, allowing them to focus mainly on academics. Because many students who drop out of college do so during their first two years, front-loading would allow those students to leave without massive debts that could prevent their return.

"If you drop out and have loans, you've got a big bill to pay," says Dr. Henry Ponder, executive director of the National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education.

Front-loading would require many disadvantaged students to take out loans in their junior and senior years, but advocates say those students would be on more secure footing--and closer to a degree--when they make that switch.

"If you can make it through the first two years, you're likely to make it through the last two years," Ponder says.

How seriously the administration will consider front-loading is still a matter of debate. White House officials have discussed a pilot program, though details of the experiment are not likely until the administration releases its 2001 budget next month.

One option under consideration, lobbyists say, is a plan to double the maximum Pell grant --from $3,300 to $6,600--for first- and second-year students who attend colleges that participate in the pilot program. As a result, many students could forego loans during their freshmen and sophomore years.

Yet some higher education organizations are wary. …

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