Student Bill of Rights About to Pass Senate ….

SB 510, the student bill of rights, is on the verge of passing out of the Senate.  It’s on the third read today for final passage.  Readers of this blog will remember that  this issue was the subject of multiple posts, as well as a press conference at George Mason last fall. 

Donald McEachin (D-Henrico) and I are the chief patrons of the measure.  It sets up a code of conduct for Virginia colleges and universities, e.g. prohibiting “exclusive lending relationships” between student loan companies and our institutions of higher learning.  Those ethically dubious relationships were featured in media stories about the student loan industry in 2006-2007. 

It’s worth noting — because I don’t want to simply bash the industry or our colleges — that I met with representatives of Sallie Mae, the largest student loan vendor, about this bill before the session.  They are cooperating with us.  It’s also worth noting that George Mason University already has a policy forbidding student lenders from receiving preferential treatment through the financial aid office.

Regardless, we need to have a legal standard here.  Financial aid officers have unparalleled access to thousands of students seeking loans.  Those students deserve the best deal that they can get without any taint of favoritism.  Student loan companies need to know that they are all competing for this business on the merits, not based upon illegal gifts or payments. 

It is important we get this measure to the Governor’s desk. 

After today’s vote, we should be on to the House …

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