D.C. Del. Walter E. Fauntroy charged yesterday that cuts in a federal student loan program will make it impossible for one of every four black students to return to school this fall.
The decision by Education Secretary Terrel H. Bell to block loan funds to 528 schools with poor repayment records "adds insult to the injury already in progress," said Fauntroy, chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus.
The cutbacks in National Direct Student Loan (NDSL) program will prevent the schools, including 46 black colleges with a total enrollment of about 150,000, from sharing in the $178 million the Department of Education expects to distribute to about 2,500 other institutions. The schools ineligible to receive the new funds failed to collect 25 percent or more of their overdue student loans in the 1980-81 academic year.
Fauntroy and several other members of Congress joined with a coalition of black churches and black colleges in protesting the action, announced Wednesday.
Rep. Paul Simon (D-Ill.) said his subcomittee on postsecondary education will hold hearings soon in an effort to see whether the Education Department's ruling can be modified to recognize the differences that exist among colleges in their abiilty to pay off their loan debts. He said the federal government should not apply the same loan repayment standards for all institutions.
"Yale and Harvard have an easier time collecting . . . than a college in East St. Louis, Illinois," he said.
Rep. Robert Garcia (D-N.Y.) said the ruling shows an insensitivity to the poor that is "nothing new" among present federal administrators.
The Rev. Timothy P. Mitchell of the National Conference of Black Churchmen said the decision "besmacks of racism," noting the high percentage of blacks who will be unable to afford to return to school.
Noting that the schools suddenly classified as ineligible had already made loan commitments to their students for the fall, the Rev. G. James Christopher of the National Black Pastors Conference called the ruling a "contrived and calculated attempt to disenfranchise youth. Students should not be pawns in this fiscal and political controversy," he added.
Most of the schools that have become ineligible for NDSL funds are proprietary schools specializing in business, secretarial or beauty skills or two-year public colleges.
Congress has 45 days to veto the new regulations, but disapproval is unlikely, a congressional aide said.
Students have defaulted on $896 million in NDSL loans in contrast to the much larger Guaranteed Student Loan program, in which students obtain loans from banks and other state lending agencies, which has about $1.7 billion worth of loans in default.