District of Columbia and federal officials got together yesterday on a plan to revive the low-interest college student loan program for city resident, but the banks that have the money are unsure that they will participate.
Albert Russo, acting director of the city Department of Human Resources, announced that the city has accepted an offer, made Dec. 29, of direct U.S. guarantees to encourage the banks to make new loans.
He said the federal government has agreed to pay 80 per cent of the $2.5 milliom that the city already owes the banks to cover past defaults. The money will only be paid, Rosso said, after a joint federal-District review team makes sure that both the banks and DHR have made proper efforts to collect from the student who took out the loans.
Russo said the city has enough money on hand to pay off the remaining 20 per cent of the defaults, and them close its loan guaranty operation although he hopes to revive it with a new appropriation in 1978.
However, the D.C. Bankers Association, which has put together a pool of money from nine D.C. banks to make the loans, said it is not certain the banks will offer any more student loans even with a 100 per cent federal guarantee.
Harry W. Sipe, chairman of the association's policy committee said. "The bank's experience has been such that they may not want to be involved (with the student loans) either with the U.S. government or the D.C. government."
The federal program, Sipe said, often has been slow in paying off defaults, although unlike the district, it has honored all its guaranty agreements.
D.C. banks stopped making new student loans last summer when the default rate topped 30 per cent - three higher than the nationwide average - and the city ran out of money to repay the banks.
About 1,500 students applied for loans this year. They now are facing new balls from their colleges for the spring term, which on most campuses begins this week.
Kenneth Kobi, the director of the federal office of guaranteed student loans, said yesterday that he had been trying unsuccessfully since last summer to get a meeting with top D.C. officials about reviving the loan program.
On Dec. 20, the U.S. Office of Education wroter Mayor Walter E. Washington, offering the direct federal guarantee, but for three weeks, Kachl said, federal officials were unable to arrange a meeting about it either with the mayor or his subordinates.
After newspaper articles on the city's lack of response appeared on Wednesday, Russo arranges to meet with Kohl yesterday morning.
It was at that meeting, which Russo described as "extremely positive," that the new agreement was worked out.
Russo has been acting director of the Department of Human Resources for the past two months since the suspension of Joseph P. Yeldell, who headed the agency for five years. A spokesman for the mayor said russo had not been told of the federal guarantee offer until Tuesday because the letter to the mayor's office had been sent elsewhere in the city government.
Yesterday, Russo ssid he met with the mayor about the new plan for the loan program as soon as he got back from Kohl's office, and that Washington gave his full approval.
"The mayor is deeply concerned about this issue," Russo said. "He is determined that it be resolved quickly so that student can again be getting loans."