MARGERY A. BECK

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) ¿ U.S. Sen. Mike Johanns said Thursday that his concern for Nebraska families is what's driving his opposition to legislation that would turn control of student loans over to the government ¿ not lobbying from private student loan provider Nelnet Inc. of Lincoln.

The Nebraska Republican took umbrage with U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan's recent warning to colleges and universities to be ready to offer direct loans to students by next school year.

Johanns said Duncan's call is presumptuous since the bill has not yet been taken up by the Senate. The student loan reform bill did pass the U.S. House in September.

"There is dissension on both sides of the aisle relative to this proposal," said Johanns, a U.S. Agriculture Secretary under the Bush administration. "A secretary should never be getting this far out in front of the policy choice being made by the Senate and the House."

Asked if his relationship with Nelnet, one of the nation's largest student loan companies, plays a part in his opposition, Johanns said he has "little contact with them."

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