The National Direct Student Loan Coalition Calls on Congress to Fix the Eligible Lender Trustee Loophole
In defiance of the intent of Congress when it recently passed restrictions on the School as Lender (SAL) program, some colleges and universities have found a loophole that allows them to garner profits from their student borrowers far in excess of what they could ever make through SAL.
Using an eligible lender trustee to manage their lending function for them, schools can bypass SAL restrictions imposed by Congress and lend not only Stafford to their graduate students, but PLUS loans, Graduate PLUS loans, and undergraduate Stafford loans as well. The U.S. Department of Education has confirmed to the Coalition that they consider this activity legal under current law.
When it created the School as Lender option in the Federal Family Education Loan Program (FFELP), Congress did not intend to create a major profit center for institutions of higher education, but simply to ensure that institutions could potentially serve as lenders of last resort to their students when banks refused to do so. Fortunately, the need for serving as a lender of last resort no longer exists.
School as Lender is in and of itself bad public policy – it is harmful to students who often have higher loan fees than through traditional federal programs, harmful to taxpayers when the less expensive Direct Loan Program volume decreases, and harmful to institutions of higher education who jeopardize their credibility through a profit-scheme that is rife with conflict of interest and inherent incentives to increase the cost of education.
In addition, this eligible lender trustee loophole has the potential to not only decrease loan volume in both DL and traditional FFELP, but could inevitably lead to the weakening and ultimate demise of the FFEL program itself.
Congress must quickly move to close this eligible lender trustee loophole to protect the integrity of the federal student loan programs.