We as students share many attributes, but two above all: we’re broke, and any free time we scrounge up comes at a premium. Loaded down with excessive units, homework enough to drown in, and desperate attempts to see our friends and lovers, any brief opportunity we find to hold a job comes with the serendipitous discovery of a paycheck waiting for us twice each month. This is hard enough—paying for college, we think, will come later. College loans carry low interest rates, and who better to co-sign your loan than the federal government?
And therein, as they say, lies the rub. Student Loan Xpress (SLiX, for the purposes of this article), the eighth-largest student loaner in the country, has been taking advantage of students by giving kickbacks to financial aid officials at three schools: Johns Hopkins, Widener and Capella Universities. Coincidentally, SLiX is on the “preferred lender” lists for all of these schools, making students much more likely to borrow from them.
Now, New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo reports that financial aid officials at Columbia University, University of Texas, and University of Southern California hold substantial stock holdings in Education Lending Group, SLiX’s parent company. SLiX, amazingly, is a “preferred lender” at these fine institutions as well.
To deal with the rising costs of our school system that so many of our parents nostalgically remember as free, or costing “just a buck,” we poor, huddled masses are often forced to take out loans to supplement the anemic financial aid that we may receive. We are allowed to borrow from whomever we want, but what do we know? It is the job, the responsibility, and the mandate of the financial aid officers to provide us with advice to help us pay for college in the best way possible, not to act as walking, talking advertisements for the highest bidder. College is already hard enough to pay for, and we don’t need our buddies at the financial aid office working against us.
And it’s not as though the response from the colleges and SLiX’s new parent company, CIT Group, which bought Education Lending Group, haven’t been harsh. Upon these discoveries, the financial aid officials and loan representatives have been placed on paid leave, a first-rate punishment for anyone dedicated to the fine art of scamming the starving student.
We at City on a Hill Press feel that these financial aid employees have betrayed their responsibilities to students, that this loan company is taking advantage of a student population that is short on cash as it is, and that those indicted in this scandal should face the worst things coming to them. Paid leave is not a punishment; it is a vacation.
Three cheers for Andrew Cuomo for uncovering this scandal before another generation of college students fall victim to who-knows-how-many coerced financial aid officials and their “preferred lenders.”
So it goes. Let’s just hope Cuomo can keep his job to carry this through to the end. We hear government attorneys have a pretty short shelf life these days.