President Bill Clinton spent most of his first 100 days in office embroiled in controversies concerning cultural and foreign policy issues, the very topics he wisely and successfully avoided during the campaign. At the end of this milestone, however, Clinton hit paydirt with the middle-class voters he so desperately sought in the campaign by enfleshing one program that proved popular: a national service program that would provide debt relief for college students.
On Friday, April 30, Clinton addressed students at the University of New Orleans concerning his two-fold plan for revamping the student loan system. First, Clinton would offer students the opportunity of $10,000 of debt forgiven for two years of service at minimum wage internship positions in the areas of education, environmental improvement, public safety, and social service.
The second component of this program shifts the responsibility of providing the financing from private financial institutions to the federal government. Currently the government guarantees repayment to the financial institution of any defaulted student loans. Under the Clinton plan, the government would make payments for vouchered volunteers directly to the educational institutions.
The National Service Trust Act of 1993 is the first pragmatic example of Clinton's often-mentioned "New Covenant" of reordering rights and responsibilities. Clinton hopes to reawaken the spirit of public involvement, much as his idol, John Kennedy, did in the early '60s. In announcing the details of the service program, Clinton said, "National service will mark the start of a new era for America in which every citizen ... can become an agent of change, armed with the knowledge and experience that a college education brings."