WASHINGTON - With the student-loan industry coming under harsh criticism, the House easily approved a bill yesterday aimed at curbing conflicts of interest and corrupt practices in college lending.
New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo has been leading an investigation into the $85 billion industry that has turned up evidence that some colleges received a percentage of loan proceeds from lenders given preferred status by the schools - a practice Cuomo calls "kickbacks." He also said some college loan officers received gifts from lenders to encourage them to steer borrowers their way.
"Some of the lenders have crossed the line," said Rep. Buck McKeon (R., Calif.), who sponsored the legislation along with House Education and Labor Committee Chairman George Miller (D., Calif.). "We will not allow this to continue," Miller said, before the House approved the measure on a vote of 414-3. The matter now goes to the Senate, where similar legislation is pending.
The bill would ban gifts from lenders to schools and impose strict controls on schools that publish lists of approved lenders to guide students to certain loan companies. Lenders and schools would have to make their business dealings more transparent to borrowers, disclosing terms, conditions and any incentives involved.
"Today, the cozy and unethical relationship between these lenders and school officials, paid for on the backs of our nation's young people, will come to an end," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) said in an e-mailed statement.