UCSB Takes a Swing at Sallie Mae

Loan Lender Effigy to be Bludgeoned by Student Volunteers

Student volunteers with the California Student Public Interest Research Group (CALPIRG) and the UCSB Student Government Association will take a swing at Sallie Mae — the nation’s leading loan lender — on Thursday, March 11. The event, to be held in UCSB’s Arbor, will run from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. and will allow students and faculty to literally take a bat to a visual representation of Sallie Mae. This event, according to organizers, will educate and advocate for Campaign for College, a fight against Sallie Mae and other loan lenders that are trying to stop a bill that would move federal loans directly to education departments rather than going through private banks.

As one of the nations leading providers of saving, planning, and pay-for-education programs, Sallie Mae is aggressively lobbying for the U.S. Senate to knock down the bill. This is where CALPIRG comes into the picture: It’s lobbying against Sallie Mae and fighting for the de-privatization of student loans. The group is advocating for the many students who have to resort to financing their degrees with private student loans and then receive high interest rates and debt levels. The banks’ reasoning behind these high interest rates, the group claims, is that students are considered “risky.”

“The main issue is that you can’t declare bankruptcy on student loans,” said CALPIRG student advocate Daniel Herb, “The fact that students are considered risky is null and void because they have no choice but to pay them back.”

Addressing the dramatically increasing student loan debt, this bill — proposed by President Obama — pushes for a $40 billion increase to federal grant aid to lower student reliance on loans. President Obama’s federal budget proposal aims to allocate loans based on-need to ensure students a modest means of attending college and graduate school. The proposal will increase the maximum Pell Grant Award to $5,710 in 2011, up from $5,550 in 2010, providing a record $34.8 billion in grants to nearly 9 million students. The proposal is now waiting action in the U.S. Senate, but it has been delayed by the aggressive lobbying campaign mounted by Sallie Mae and other banks.

CALPIRG student advocates are using Thursday’s event to educate the importance of eliminating the middle man so that subsidies and interest rates can drop and students can simply focus on the loan. The tabling will serve as photo petition to help support their lobbying efforts and according to Herb, “build a better environment for students.”

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