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[Susan notes: Strictly boiler plate language here: Choose one phrase from column A, one from Column B, and add "We are pleased that Congress is working with us to accomplish this goal."]

Published in New York Times

To the editor

When it comes to protecting college students from shady lending practices, the Department of Education is on the case (“Educating the Education Secretary,” editorial, May 14).

Fixing the student loan system is a top priority. We have closed a loophole that allowed some private lenders to game the system. And we are continually conducting audits and reviews.

But to change the game we need to change the law.

Current law inhibits enforcement, because of a high burden of proof. It forces the department to demonstrate that a lender’s actions were clearly intended to result in loan applications. Your editorial does not point out this key fact.

We are committed to injecting more choice, competition and transparency into the federal student aid process.

Our plan would ensure that every borrower has the right to choose any lender, and would require schools with preferred lender lists to disclose how and why those lenders were chosen.

We’re already taking steps to ban gifts in exchange for loans and to limit deceptive marketing. And we are working closely with Congress and the many agencies with partial oversight of the private student loan process.

One final note: To ensure that college remains affordable for as many families as possible, President Bush has proposed the largest increase in federal Pell Grants in 30 years. We are pleased that Congress is working with us to accomplish this goal.

Margaret Spellings, Secretary of Education

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