Last Thursday NewsWorks covered the protest at Sallie Mae in Newark. That produced some conversation that we believe should continue. So we have positioned this story on Speak Easy for you to continue your comments.
Here is the original story from May 24th.
Students and recent graduates marched outside the Newark offices of Sallie Mae trying to get a meeting with Sallie Mae leaders to express their concerns with high student loan debt.
After arriving on several buses outside the Sallie Mae complex on Continental Drive, protesters were led into a protest area set up by State Police cordoned off with traffic cones. For most of the protest they stayed there and on the sidewalk in front of the building chanting slogans and demanding a meeting with Sallie Mae CEO Albert Lord.
“We’re here today to say no to Sallie Mae and other student loan companies charging exorbitant rates, using policies that keep students out and sending that money they make back to lobby against the interests of students,” says protester Isaiah Toney. Toney says he will finish his education at George Washington University this August with nearly $80,000 in student loan debt.
Sallie Mae issued a statement about the protest, “We recognize that in this economy it may take longer to realize the value of a college degree as a job search may take longer than it used to. Still, the vast majority of our customers successfully manage the repayment of their loans. For those who experience difficulty, we work with them one-on-one to identify a payment program that fits with their financial situation.”
Back outside, other students told their stories of debt, including Victor Sanchez who leads the United States Student Association. “We all know we have a student loan crisis in this country, it’s over a trillion dollars, and they’re the ones making the most money and they’re the most [inflexible] at this time in terms of sitting down and talking through what solutions can be.”
Sanchez was part of a March protest at Sallie Mae’s facility in Washington, D.C. where 36 people were arrested. Things went much more peacefully this time, and a small group of protesters were allowed into the shareholders meeting to deliver their petition. “We want them to take all loans down to 3.4% keep them there like the federal government, and create an income based repayment system that would allow us students to not be burdened as soon as graduation,” he says.
Molly Katchpole with the group Rebuild the Dream was one of the representatives who made it inside Sallie Mae’s headquarters building. “We wanted to know why they’re not working with students to have better repayment options, I mean they make millions of dollars, they have the money to do it, and they just don’t. And students are trapped in cycles of debt.” When asked why the group didn’t protest universities and colleges for raising tuition rates, she said that’s not they’re fight right now.
In a statement issued after today’s shareholder meeting, Sallie Mae CEO Albert Lord says “Borrowing to pay for college is a serious decision to be carefully considered. Too often, borrowing is seen only as part of the total admissions process, and there is insufficient focus on financial consequences. At Sallie Mae, we believe the student lender has the responsibility to work with customers to ensure they are properly educated about their financial obligation.”