The high cost of college: How it happened, what to do about it: Part IV

Published 7:00 am Saturday, April 23, 2016

When a student borrows money for tuition from Sallie Mae, the college is paid up front for a full one semester or one year, regardless of whether the student leaves or drops out—after two weeks or one month.
Each year a student borrows for his/ her tuition requires a separate loan, and the loans for each year cannot be consolidated. The student cannot default on these loans, and re-negotiating for these loans in most cases is not doable. As a result, our nation’s college students graduate with crippling debt, and it has become a national crisis. And not surprisingly, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has received more than 1,500 complaints about Sallie Mae just in 2015 alone. Sallie Mae totaled nearly half of the 3,485 total complaints submitted about student loans to the agency since March 2012. It has faced hundreds of class action lawsuits nationwide nearly every year since being privatized.
How do they get away with this corruption and thievery? Easy. They buy our lawmakers. Sallie Mae spent $16 million on federal lobbying from 2008 to 2012. This money was spent contributing to mostly Republican lawmakers’ super PACs in exchange for blocking any student loan reform, as well as influencing federal regulators of the same. It’s legal — but legalized corruption and bribery. Sallie Mae has at least 63 registered lobbyists across the nation, not including their large lobbying group in DC.
One Sallie Mae lobbyist, Vin Weber, helped fund the election of Senator Ron Johnson from Wisconsin, (R) who voted three times to double the Stafford Loan interest rate in 2012 during Congressional sessions. Sallie Mae also belongs to the controversial American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which regularly promotes legislation that is anti-consumer, anti-Union, and pro 1 percent. For a company that claims to make “borrowers’ education dreams a reality,” Sallie Mae spends a colossal amount of money buying the political access and influence necessary to protect its own bottom line. On the receiving end of its largest contributions to date are the following recent U.S. lawmakers: John Boehner, (R-OH) $92,000, and Mitt Romney, (R) $35,250. Other smaller super PAC contributions, ranging in amounts from $5,000 to $15,000, have been given to several lawmakers in the Senate and House, in both parties, but mostly Republican.
So, like many other entities in American life, like going to war, caring for our sick and elderly, being prescribed medicines, and going to college, a few people have figured out how to get very rich off the backs of hard-working American citizens, and make sure the lawmakers they help elect and purchase in our nation’s government comply with their special interests of the almighty bottom line.
So how can someone graduating from high school attend college and graduate debt-free?
The first step is for a high school senior to realize that the global job market for careers is intense.
A college degree does not mean immediately landing the career of your dreams right out of school, as it did 50 years ago. So, going to an expensive private college and paying off a large debt by landing a great job? It’s not going to happen.

By Deborah Craig

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