Student loan business unfairly criticizedIn a classic...


April 27, 1997

Student loan business unfairly criticized

In a classic stroke of irony, The Sun (March 2, "How USA group won Maryland's student loan business") has chosen to criticize a nationally respected company, not for its failure, but for its success in serving millions of American students and taxpayers in the student loan program.

USA Funds has assisted Maryland in administering guaranteed student loans since the inception of the Maryland program in 1965. The state program began after the federal government's previous attempt at a government-lending model collapsed under the weight of mounting defaults. In contrast, the state of Maryland operated a solid loan program and defaults in Maryland and nationwide have been steadily improving over the past four years.

USA Group affiliates routinely help borrowers avoid default 90 percent of the time, preventing $6 billion in defaults for U.S. taxpayers last year alone.

In 1994, the state of Maryland conducted an exhaustive competitive bidding process to designate a guarantor for its student loan program. It chose USA Funds from a field of four qualified guarantors. Today, colleges in Maryland can choose the loan program for their students -- either the guaranteed loan program administered by USA Funds or the government-operated direct loan program.

The clear majority of Maryland schools have opted to rely on USA Funds. They are in good company; nearly 80 percent of academic institutions nationwide have chosen to stick with the guaranteed loan program.

Published news reports and surveys have documented that schools cite good service and benefits to students as key reasons why they prefer the program supported by private lenders and guarantors. Moreover, the majority of Americans surveyed on the issue do not believe that the government can or should take over the work of experienced professionals in making and collecting consumer loans.

Success, to most Americans, is something to strive for, not something to be destroyed.

Susan O. Conner

Indianapolis, Ind.

The writer is senior vice president of public affairs for USA Group.

What is the city's goal for housing?

I'm tired of shaking my head in disbelief at all the foibles, cronyism and shortsightedness of the Baltimore City government. The Sun's series on the housing commissioner's handling of the city's decaying housing is the latest in a list of disappointments from a mayor that I truly expected great things from when he was first elected.

To paraphrase Baltimore housing commissioner, Daniel P. Henson III, "If there is a point . . . I don't know what it is."

Maybe that is the whole problem. Does anyone know the point or the mission of the housing department? Is it clearly defined and written down somewhere?

I would hope the city would have a policy to encourage and facilitate homeownership in Baltimore City. I doubt the policy is to enrich a few minority contractors, (who, judging by prices The Sun quoted, are overcharging), at the expense of some minority homeowners and every other resident of the city.

Exactly who is a minority in Baltimore City? Perhaps it is anyone who hasn't been adversely affected by some of the city's policies.

P. E. Chalmers


Social Security taxing issue for some earners

In the April 18 Sun, you published a letter from Richard L. Lelonek of Baltimore, under the heading "Kemp wrong about Social Security." In his letter, Mr. Lelonek states that Social Security benefits are now tax-exempt and, if Jack Kemp's proposal becomes law, there would be a push to tax Social Security benefits.

For Mr. Lelonek's information, Social Security benefits have been subject to income tax since 1984, as a result of the Social Security Amendments of 1983. Since 1984, U.S. citizens and residents have had to pay tax on their Social Security benefits if their total income exceeds certain thresholds.

Barry L. Powell

Ellicott City

Traffic patterns affect neighborhood stability

The April 12 column by Antero Pietila tried to show that certain aspects of traffic patterns in Baltimore City need to be re-evaluated in order to help make residential areas a little more livable. One of these "new" notions involves changing one-way thoroughfares back to the original concept of two-way traffic.

This idea really frightens some people like Walter J. Addison, a former state transit administrator, who penned a rather peppered response (April 19).

Yes, it is important to keep the evacuation of traffic flowing. But at whose expense?

Pratt and Lombard streets west of Martin Luther King Boulevard are cases in point. These two streets have been one-way for quite some time and community pleas to transform them back to the way they originally were are finally being heard. At a recent community meeting City Councilman Norman Handy agreed with the overwhelming majority of those present that the time has come to take a closer look at the negative impact on these neighborhoods.

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