"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Exit Counseling, Revenue Sharing, and Other Forms of Prostitution

It is clear now that many, many colleges and universities have been in bed with the corporate loan sharks that privatizers like John Boehner and Mike Enzi helped to put in the position to prey on college students saddled with big school loans. Here is one of the latest example, now coming fast and furious as Cuomo's lifting of the rock has the dark inhabitants scurrying for cover. One thing is for sure: as the American university is turned in just another commercial consumer service, the naive student customers are just as sure to get screwed as the knowledge workers once known as professors and scholars:

Rachel Jones, a senior at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, recently was sitting through a student-loan workshop that university officials had told her was mandatory when an uneasy feeling kicked in.

The woman in the front of the classroom asked students to fill out forms with personal information — including names, addresses and phone numbers of relatives, an employer and a friend. Ms. Jones recalled that she also talked about “other loan companies” that would saddle students with unfavorable rates if they decided to consolidate loans on graduation.

Unable to keep quiet, Ms. Jones raised her hand: “I just said, excuse me, who are you and what is your affiliation?” The woman identified herself as an employee of All Student Loan, a California-based lender.

Ms. Jones, a 22-year-old who has $17,000 in student loans, had unwittingly stumbled upon another undisclosed relationship between universities and loan companies.

Recent investigations have largely focused on incentives lenders give universities to get coveted placement on the preferred lending lists students use to take out loans when they enter college. But colleges also give lenders crucial access to students when they are graduating, using lenders to conduct exit counseling required under federal law for students who have taken out federally guaranteed student loans.

In some cases, loan company representatives come on campus and run sessions for seniors on loan repayment. In others, colleges direct students to loan company Web sites, including Wells Fargo, Citibank and Sallie Mae. And in many cases, the loan companies are pushing a product: their consolidation loans.

Anne Prisco, the vice president for enrollment management at Loyola, defended the practice, saying the lenders allowed on campus were carefully selected. “Every year when we have exit interviews we ask if they want to assist,” Ms. Prisco said. “They are just there to provide additional information.”

Others say the access to students is improper. Heather McDonnell, the director of financial aid at Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, N.Y., said she thought using loan companies for exit counseling was “absolutely” inappropriate.

“Behind every lender is a consolidation loan,” Ms. McDonnell said. “I don’t allow anybody to come on my campus to come and do that. I just don’t think it’s a good idea. I think that information should be coming directly from the financial aid office.” . . . .

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