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President Bush on Friday signed into law legislation expanding a student loan forgiveness program for students who become legal aid lawyers, state or local prosecutors and public defenders. The program is contained in the Higher Education Opportunity Act (H.R. 4137), which updates existing programs and creates new ways to make higher education accessible and affordable. The new law amends the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968 to direct the attorney general to assume the obligation to repay student loans for borrowers who agree to remain employed, for at least three years, as: (1) state or local criminal prosecutors; or (2) state, local or federal public defenders in criminal cases. It allows a borrower and the attorney general to enter into an additional loan repayment agreement, after the required three-year period, for a successive period of service that may be less than three years. It also limits the amount paid under the program on behalf of any borrower to $10,000 per calendar year and $60,000 total. Under the program, the attorney general must give priority in granting repayment benefits to borrowers who have the least ability to repay their loans. Legal aid attorneys who take part in the program, which will be administered by the U.S. Department of Education, could individually receive up to $6,000 per year up to a total amount of $40,000.

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