WASHINGTON -- William Bennett might not be education secretary now if he had voiced his 'insensitivity towards the needs of students' at his confirmation hearing, the chairman of a Senate education subcommittee says.
Sen. Robert Stafford, R-Vt., blasted Bennett Thursday for backing President Reagan's proposed 25 percent cut in student aid and suggesting that students hurt by it might consider giving up cars, stereos and beach vacations.
'I think he still might be the subject of hearings if we had known during the hearing of his insensitivity toward the needs of students, particularly low- and low-middle income students who can only go to college because of federal aid,' Stafford said in a telephone interview from Burlington, Vt.
During his Jan. 28 confirmation hearing, Bennett told the Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee he had made no decisionon whether to back Reagan's proposal to deny aid to a student whose family income tops $32,500.
Under questioning, Bennett said he did not participate in the drafting of the proposal, but said as education secretary, 'I would look forward to working with the committee to talk about this, to see if a different figure could be, or should be, arrived at.'
Bennett, who was sworn in as education secretary last week, told his first news conference Monday that he will actively support this proposal as well as a measure to impose a $4,000 cap on annual aid to any student.
Asked about what impact it might have on students, Bennett said:
'It might require, for some students, divestitures of certain sorts -- stereo divestitures, automobile divestitures, three-weeks-at-the-beach divestitures.'
In an interview Tuesday, following a crush of criticism from students and educators, Bennett said he was only referring to middle- and even upper-income students who receive federal aid and have stereos and cars.
'I didn't say many students. I didn't say all students,' Bennett said. 'I said some students. And I'll stick to it.'
Bennett must return to the Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee to present Reagan's proposed student aid cuts.
'I don't think he will be very cordially received,' Stafford said.