State PIRGs' Higher Education Project
218 D Street SE
Washington, DC 20003
(202) 546-9707

Ivan Frishberg

Ellynne Bannon


Wednesday, January 10, 2001

Roderick Paige Gets a Passing Grade at Confirmation Hearing

(Washington) Education Secretary-Designate Roderick Paige won cautious praise from student aid advocates today, but advocates are still waiting for more information on the Education nominee for President-Elect Bush’s Cabinet.

Paige went before the Senate Health, Education, Labor Pensions Committee today in a confirmation hearing for his nomination by President-Elect Bush.  Paige's position on higher education issues has been relatively unknown, and today's confirmation hearing did little to reveal more of his policy on student aid issues. 

Paige received high marks from all of the Senators present and will almost certainly be quickly approved by the full Senate.  Despite the widespread praise from Senators, the hearing did not bring attention to several important issues, such as the increasing levels of student indebtedness or the imbalance between grant aid and loans in helping students pay for college.

"We still don't really know where Roderick Paige stands on many issues, such as the burden of loan debt for graduating students," said Tracey King, an Associate with the State PIRGs Higher Education Project.

In response to a question about his commitment to the continued existence of the Direct Loan Program, Paige said that he would like to see that option remain available to students.  However, he gave no details, and the higher education community is anxious to learn more about the new Administration’s position regarding the lawsuit some members of the loan industry have filed against the Department of Education.   

The lawsuit would increase the fees for Direct Student loans and drive many schools out of the program.  Many student aid supporters are concerned that the lawsuit was filed with the intention of eliminating the ability of the Direct Loan Program to compete with the FFEL program.

Paige also stated that he supports front-loading Pell grants.  However, he did not expand on the proposal that President-elect Bush referred to in his campaign.  Front-loading involves increasing the maximum grant for first-year students, under the assumption that students who attend one year of college are more likely to continue on to graduation.  

"We're still waiting to see the details of Paige's position on a lot of these student aid issues," said King.