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Under pressure from officials at historically black colleges and other institutions that serve large numbers of students from low-income backgrounds, the U.S. Education Department has announced that it will weigh appeals that may allow more families to qualify for federal loans for parents, the Associated Press reported. Changes made in 2011 to the underwriting standards for PLUS loans led to a spike in denials for families that had taken on debt because of the economic downturn, and the changes disproportionately affected students at HBCUs. Members of the Congressional Black Caucus, including Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio), had urged the Education Department to reconsider the underwriting standards.

In a letter sent to the Fudge on Tuesday, department officials said they would review their definitions in negotiations over federal rules for loan programs set to begin next spring, and would in the short term consider appeals from those who had been denied PLUS loans.