To the editor:

Late last month, the 102nd Congress began considering the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act. These hearings come at a critical time for our nation.Growing international competitiveness and rapid technological change make educating a highly skilled work force more important than ever. Meeting this challenge will largely determine whether the United States falters or thrives in the economic marketplace of the 1990s and the 21st century.

The student financial assistance programs that Congress fashions will play a major role in determining whether our nation meets the economic challenges of the future. For millions of young people, the legislation will also decide whether they have the opportunity to pursue their version of the American dream.

The National Association of Trade and Technical Schools and the Association of Independent Colleges and Schools, founders of the Utah Skills 2000 coalition, have developed a set of legislative proposals to give all Americans a chance to enjoy the education they need to get ahead.

The package will provide access to postsecondary education opportunities for all students - including the poor and disadvantaged.

It restores the proper balance between grants and loans so the very poorest do not leave school under a crushing burden of debt. It improves the integrity of the aid programs. And it enhances the effectiveness of the programs through simplification and greater predictability.

Dixon Merrill

Utah Skills 2000