NEW YORK — A new code of conduct for loan arrangements adopted by three dozen schools and a major student-loan provider "will ensure integrity in the student-loan process," state Attorney General Andrew Cuomo said Monday.Six of the schools have also agreed to reimburse students a total of $3.27 million.And Citibank, which does business at about 3,000 schools, agreed to put $2 million toward a national fund that would educate students and parents about the financial-aid industry.The schools — all 29 four-year State University of New York campuses, New York University, University of Pennsylvania, St. John's University, Syracuse University, Fordham University, St. Lawrence University and Long Island University — agreed to the code as part of settlements of nationwide probe by Cuomo's office into student lending. None of the schools admitted any wrongdoing.Plattsburgh State College President John Ettling, reached at his office Tuesday, said he had not yet read the settlement and was unfamiliar with its details or whether Plattsburgh State was specifically involved with any of the student-loan practices.The Attorney General's Office could not say Tuesday whether Plattsburgh State was improperly influenced by lenders, though the college, like all SUNY schools, will adopt the code of conduct.Plattsburgh State Financial Aid Director Todd Moravec did not return a call from the Press-Republican seeking comment.Cuomo's national investigation found that many colleges established questionable "preferred lender" lists and entered into revenue sharing and other financial arrangements with those lenders."The college-loan industry has developed practices over the years that we believe are deceptive. We believe they're unethical. We also believe they're illegal at times," Cuomo said at a news conference at his Manhattan office. "Those practices must be stopped."Cuomo's investigators say they have found numerous arrangements that benefited schools and lenders at the expense of students. In some cases, investigators said, lenders provided all-expense-paid trips for college financial aid officers to exotic locations in return for directing students to the lenders.Six lenders and more than 100 public and private colleges have been swept up in the attorney general's investigation into the $85 billion college loan industry. The investigation into schools and lenders that weren't part of Monday's announcement continues, Cuomo said.Monday's agreements ban lenders from giving gifts to schools in exchange for any advantage in landing loan business. College officials will be prohibited from taking any gifts of more than nominal value from lenders and will be prohibited from getting any compensation for serving on any private loan company advisory boards, Cuomo said. Revenue sharing is prohibited.The schools must also make sure students know what criteria are used for lenders to get onto any preferred lender list, and that lenders that aren't on the list also can be used.The code of conduct "is setting a standard as to what is and isn't acceptable practice," said Mark Kantrowitz, publisher of the Web site FinAid.org."More openness, more disclosure, is always a good thing," he said.The University of Pennsylvania will pay $1.62 million to reimburse students for added loan costs caused by revenue sharing agreements. New York University will give $1.39 million back to students while Syracuse University, Fordham University, Long Island University and St. John's University will pay lesser amounts.Cuomo did not know exactly how many students would be reimbursed, or the specific dollar amounts they would get back. He said it would be based on the amounts of their loans, and expected that "thousands" would get some kind of reimbursement.St. Lawrence University was not ordered to pay reimbursements.Last month, Cuomo said he would sue California student loan provider Education Finance Partners, claiming the company is making illegal kickbacks to schools in exchange for business. He sent a notice of intent to sue the San Francisco-based EFP. The notice was the first legal action to come from Cuomo's nationwide probe.The company said it did nothing wrong and was prepared to defend its business practices.
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