Two more state attorneys general have joined a growing crusade led by New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo to clean up the troubled student loan industry as more schools agree to reform their student loan practices, officials said.
Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood and Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan have signed on to the probe today, which has already forced major concessions from top lenders and universities to reform the way they guide students and underwrite billions in student loans, officials at the New York attorney general's office said.
Nearly two-thirds of the nation's incoming freshmen at four-year colleges apply for loans, creating a highly competitive $85 billion industry.
Also today, Cuomo's office announced that it reached settlement agreements with three more colleges, bringing to 15 the total number of schools who have vowed to reform their student loan programs in order to avoid costly legal battles with the state.
Washington University of St. Louis, Mississippi University and DeVry Technical Institute, a for-profit college system headquartered in Illinois, promised to modify their student loan practices, increase disclosure of their relationships with lenders and, in several cases, offer restitution directly to students affected by their past practices, Cuomo's office told ABC News.
To date, the nation's top two lenders, Sallie Mae and Citibank Student Loan Corporation, have also reached agreements with Cuomo's office. The two will pay millions into a fund to educate students and parents about the student loan industry. Neither bank admitted wrongdoing.
The move by the Mississippi and Illinois attorneys general to join forces with Cuomo is similar to past litigation by public prosecutors around the country against handgun manufacturers and tobacco companies. As more states join the effort, they increase the legal pressure on banks and schools that have not yet arrived at settlements.
In addition to winning concessions from schools and lenders, Cuomo's investigation has exposed numerous cases of university student loan officials receiving "consulting fees," stock and other benefits from a small but aggressive lender, Student LoanXpress, which was trying to win a greater share of the student loan market. In the wake of those disclosures, the firm's parent company removed three of the lender's top managers.