WASHINGTON - The Clinton administration and Senate Democrats have agreed to a compromise proposal for direct student lending by colleges that would allow the new program to be halted during the four-year phase-in period if it is found to be unworkable.

The compromise is a partial victory for proponents of tax-exempt student loan bonds, which would no longer be needed if direct lending were fully implemented. The plan originally proposed by President Clinton and approved by the House contained no provision for backing away from the direct lending program.

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