Former medical students who attended Howard University, the University of Maryland, George Washington University and other schools in the region are delinquent on repayment of more than $1 million in federal student loans, according to a government audit released yesterday.
The figures were disclosed as part of a recent crackdown by the Department of Health and Human Services on overdue student loans made to health professionals. HHS has found $30.6 million worth of delinquent loans in federal programs around the nation that currently provide $639 million yearly to nursing students and others in health fields. The HHS audit released yesterday, however, focuses on medical doctors. HHS said that nationwide 6,000 physicians are behind by at least a year on repayment of loans totaling $5.2 million.
In many cases, according to Richard P. Kusserow, the HHS inspector general, the doctors are able to repay loans, but the medical schools they attended have failed to press them for collection. As a result, HHS said, other medical students suffer because repayments that would go into revolving funds for use by other students are not being made.
Among 37 medical schools audited nationally, Howard University medical school had the largest number of delinquent loans, 693 totaling $595,000. A Howard spokesman said the university had retained collection agencies and lawyers in efforts to collect.
The University of Maryland had 239 delinquent loans totaling $174,000, while George Washington had 188 totaling $106,000. Other delinquencies include the University of Virginia, $69,000; Virginia Commonwealth University, $179,000, and Johns Hopkins University, $47,000.
A George Washington spokeswoman disputed the HHS figures, saying the delinquencies there are only $60,000 out of $3.8 million lent, a ratio she termed very small. She said the school has a three-person "collection unit" that is usually successful in arranging repayment, except in cases in which students have dropped out or encountered unusual hardships.
HHS said yesterday that it would issue new regulations aimed at tightening the program, including provisions requiring schools to take students to court for repayment. Legislation proposed by Sen. Charles Percy (R-Ill.) would authorize the Internal Revenue Service to release current addresses of delinquents to the schools, HHS said.