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College Aid for Students Who Serve U.S. OKd

September 09, 1993|ELIZABETH SHOGREN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

WASHINGTON — Adopting a measure that carries out one of President Clinton's most popular campaign pledges, the Senate gave final approval Wednesday to a domestic Peace Corps that will provide Americans with educational stipends in exchange for community service.

The Senate voted, 57 to 40, for the National and Community Service Trust Act, which now goes to the White House for Clinton's signature.

"National service will bring together Americans from a wide variety of backgrounds, expand their educational opportunity and empower a new generation to take on our nation's most pressing domestic needs," Clinton said Wednesday in a statement praising the Senate vote.

"Thousands will spend a year or two serving their country and their communities--working as teachers, as health care workers or on environmental projects--while helping to pay for school."

National service has been a popular idea because it is thought to help not only the poor, but also middle-class Americans struggling to meet the skyrocketing costs of college educations for their children.

The bill authorizes spending $300 million for fiscal year 1994 for 15,000 to 20,000 full- and part-time participants, which would make it as big or bigger than the Peace Corps was at its largest. Spending would grow to $500 million the second year and $700 million in fiscal 1996, with participation growing accordingly, although it will fall well short of Clinton's original target of 150,000 participants by the third year.

In exchange for a year of full-time work, participants will receive educational stipends of up to $4,725 a year for use for college, job training or vocational education. They also would receive modest salaries and other employee benefits.

Senate Republicans, led by Bob Dole of Kansas, fought the proposal, arguing that it is too expensive for such lean economic times.

"On the one hand, President Clinton says national service will be the centerpiece of his Administration and on the other hand that he wants to reinvent government," Dole said in a floor speech. "Well, we think when we talk about reinventing government we're talking about less government, less new programs."

Sen. Nancy Landon Kassebaum (R-Kan.) said it showed the Administration's failure to simplify government bureaucracy, despite the plan announced Tuesday by Vice President Al Gore to simplify the federal government and cut $108 billion over five years.

But Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.), who led the debate on the bill, said the legislation will help encourage Americans to think in new ways to solve the chronic problems in society.

"Too many citizens, preoccupied with their own lives, assume that the challenges facing America are someone else's problem," Kennedy said. "This measure harnesses the creativity, drive and talents of our greatest national resource: Americans themselves."

The Administration hopes that the program also will serve as a laboratory for strategies for reinventing government. The program will be administered by a nonpartisan board of citizen directors called the Corporation for National and Community Service. Members will be paid but will not be part of the civil service system.

The corporation or committees set up by each state will choose programs in which national service participants will work.

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