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Duncan Addresses College Presidents

Compiled By CityTownInfo.com Staff
November 25, 2009

At a conference of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities in Texas on Tuesday, Education Secretary Arne Duncan outlined plans to assist institutions of higher learning that are trying to stay afloat during difficult economic times, but warned that the government can only go so far.

"We are trying to. . .pump unprecedented resources into education at every level. But at the end of the day, if folks think they are going to be able to avoid making hard decisions, I think that is unrealistic," said Duncan, who was quoted in the San Antonio Express-News.

The secretary said that the government expects to grant an additional $40 million for Pell grants, $12 billion for community colleges and $3 billion for efforts to raise graduation rates. The funds would largely be made available if the Senate passes the Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act, which expands the government's direct lending and is expected to save $87 billion in subsidies that private lenders currently receive.

"We can continue to subsidize banks. . .or we can invest in young people," Duncan was quoted as saying in the Austin American-Statesman.

Last month, Duncan sent a letter to colleges urging them to switch to the government's Direct Loan program in anticipation of the bill being passed. Last week, U.S. Reps George Miller (D-CA) and Ruben Hinjosa (D-TX) sent similar letters to college presidents echoing the secretary's recommendation to make the Direct Loan program available to students for the 2010-11 school year.

But in his speech to college presidents, Duncan could not predict when the Senate would indeed act. "Folks are a little bit obsessed with health care right now," he was quoted as saying in the Express-News.

College officials expressed concern about how to deal with increased budget cuts. "I don't think [Duncan] really addressed the major issue of how we are going to overcome these significant budget deficits," said Frank Trocki, chancellor of Montana State University-Northern, who was quoted by the Express-News. "We have reached a point of no return. If we go further, the institution, I think, as a whole will fail."

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