At their shareholder meeting on May 30th, Sallie Mae succumbed to pressure from students and their supporters inside and outside the meeting – including AFT President Randi Weingarten, then-president of the Rutgers AAUP-AFT Adrienne Eaton, president of the Council of New Jersey State College Locals Tim Haresign, and numerous AFT members – and agreed to meet with students within a month. After for refusing to meet with students organizations for well over a year, this abrupt about-face was a significant step forward for distressed borrowers of educational loans and for current students facing the prospects of debt once they graduate.
At the end of the June, several students traveled to Newark, DE to meeting with Sallie Mae executives and… well, they got to meet with Sallie Mae executives. The tone of the meeting, from what we hear, ran the gamut from “condescending” all the way to “patronizing.” Students were told that the loan process is “complicated” and that Sallie Mae, like any mom and pop finance behemoth, needs to pay its bills to keep the lights on, which we imagine is quite difficult when you only took in $900 million in profits in 2012.
Students and borrowers deserve better than that. President Weingarten sent a letter expressing disappointment in the conduct of Sallie Mae executives at the June meeting. She called upon the finance corporation to follow the recommendations of the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau and publish the process used by Sallie Mae for loan modifications and for Sallie Mae to publicly disclose the organizations with whom they are affiliated for the purpose of lobbying (like ALEC).
The members of the AFT will continue to stand with educational loan borrowers and students to demand that Sallie Mae and other lenders provide assistance to distressed borrowers in helping them manage their debt, and to demand an affordable quality public higher education for current and future students.