Groups make renewed push for student loan reform


Sallie Mae, the nation’s largest provider of private student loans, has responded to charges that the company had ramped up lobbying efforts to undercut support for SAFRA. In a statement issued last month, the company said it supports key pieces of Obama’s legislation, including “government ownership of all federal student loans and elimination of lender subsidies.”

“We believe, however, that the president’s proposal could be enhanced in a way that preserves private-sector competition,” Sallie Mae said in its statement. “We are disappointed there has not been more debate on these important issues. Congress has held one hearing on reform and considered only the government takeover proposal.”

Sallie Mae spent about $3.5 million in lobbying efforts last year, an increase from $3.2 million in 2008, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a national research group that tracks trends in lobbying.

SAFRA seemed to be on the verge of passing last fall when Duncan sent a letter to 3,500 colleges and universities in October, urging them to “ensure uninterrupted access to federal student loans by ensuring your institution is direct loan-ready for the 2010-11 academic year.” Since then, more college leaders have moved to a direct-lending model.

Duncan said in a Feb. 17 conference call with reporters that there are more than 2,300 campuses that offer direct lending, up from 1,000 in 2007.

In a March 12 column on The Huffington Post, Duncan addressed recent student protests in California and other parts of the country after states announced tuition and fee increases for the coming year. Duncan pointed to college students’ economic crunch during the recession, and he joined SAFRA advocates with his continued push to pass the overhaul while the political will exists.

“We cannot let this opportunity slip away,” Duncan wrote.

Links:

Arne Duncan’s Huffington Post column

Campus Progress

The First Five Years Fund