A group of six local colleges and universities yesterday urged the D.C. City Council to approve a total of $50 million in industrial revenue bonds to create a student loan program, but some council members questioned whether the program would provide ample benefits for District students.
Proceeds from the proposed bond issue would be used to finance $40 million in loans for students enrolled in the six institutions, all of which belong to the Consortium of Universities of the Washington Metropolitan Area. Another $10 million would be set aside for D.C. residents who attend out-of-state schools.
City Council member John A. Wilson (D-Ward 2), chairman of the Finance and Revenue Committee, said he was concerned about providing loans to students who leave the District to attend school.
"Why should we pay for out-of-state education for young people when we have a consortium of universities here that are supposed to be among the best in the country?" Wilson said.
Council member Hilda Mason (Statehood-At Large), chairman of the Education Committee, said she was troubled that the University of the District of Columbia and Howard University, which are also members of the consortium, do not plan to participate in the proposed program.
Rev. John P. Whalen, executive director of the consortium, told Wilson's committee that UDC and Howard decided not to participate because all of the schools would be liable for up to 17 percent of the loans issued if students defaulted. Whalen said some UDC students would qualify for federal tuition aid.
The schools taking part in the proposed program include American University, George Washington University, Catholic University, Georgetown University, Mount Vernon College and Trinity College.
Pauline Schneider, the mayor's director for intergovernmental relations, said that the student loan program is designed to help middle-class students whose parents make too much money to qualify for other funds. She stressed that the council will have to act quickly because President Reagan's proposed tax reform package could put an end to the city's current program of issuing bonds on behalf of institutions.
In a related matter, the Gay Activists Alliance of Washington asked the committee to delay action on Georgetown University's request for a $127 million bond issue to finance the construction and renovation of campus facilities.
Stephen Smith, president of the Gay Activists Alliance, testified that homosexual student groups at Georgetown are still being denied access to university facilities. The council approved a previous bond issue to the university with the condition that gay students be provided equal access to facilities.