• CAUTION: professional soapboxing ahead…

When people ask me how well I like my job, I often respond that I like it well enough, and that I vastly favor it over anything I could do in the private sector. I’ve chosen to work in higher education because I believe that it is noble to pursue knowledge, which is what the students around here are alleged to be doing.

Regardless of how much I can/could/do complain about stupid questions, helicopter parents, or disagreements with co-workers, the fact remains that I view the core responsibility of my job to be:
help students find the best means they can pay for college, if they can’t afford it on their own.

The fact that the costs for education (even at a public institution like mine) are spiraling out of control without federal aid programs keeping pace is a separate issue from what I do. I am not the person with whom a student or parent should file grievances about the paltry amounts of federal and state grants, or the fact that an extremely profitable private loan industry has sprung up to fill the gap between what students can get by working with my office, and what the people upstairs have billed them. These issues should be raised with state representatives, governors, and Congressmen. As a professional, I am doing what I can on those fronts through continued membership/involvement in national and regional organizations whose purposes are to offer feedback and guidance to the Administration in power.

That being said, back in my cubicle, I put forth my best efforts to address the questions of students who visit me, and offer the best advice that I am privy to. When my school made the choice to align itself with a particular private lender, I and all of my colleagues were wary of the notion that we should point a student in a particular direction, rather than laying all the options out for them (this even after we conducted market research on what product would be the best option for the majority of our students). Our director reminded us that choice is something our students would never lose, and that we should responsibly remind them of the plethora of loan options available (I always have, and will continue to do so). This is just one example of how I think the ethics and moral standards of people who choose this profession are of the highest order, and the perception of my “core responsibility” is shared among my colleagues.

The value that I place on my ethical standards is why I and the vast majority of student aid administrators around the country are appalled at the notion that we would ever put the students interest second in our daily work.

One johnny-come-lately lender, who, make no mistake, is focused squarely on the millions of dollars it thinks that it should be making (rather than the umpteen hundreds of others), has managed to create a national issue out of student borrowing by positing baseless accusations and employing devious tactics to muscle its way in. This is the company questioning MY motives, and doubting MY integrity.

A long-standing lender (with whom I have not always had the best experience) surprised me by offering a well-thought-out response to a recent story from CBS News on this topic.

There has already been enough written or said about the specifics of this situation that I don’t see reason to hash through it again. But if you are in college, or have friends, siblings, or children who will one day (sooner or later) be in college, I would encourage you to watch the CBS report and also read the response. Most importantly, please have faith in the student aid professionals at your school, who are the only ones within this debate who have nothing measurable to gain by the accumulation of student loan debt.

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