If Citigroup — recipient of $45 billion in bailout funds and constant visits with Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, and longtime employer of former Treasury Secretary Bob Rubin — is supposed to be the government’s friend, it’s quite the underminer. Today the bank emailed borrowers who took out student loans with Citigroup encouraging them to write to Congress opposing the administration’s student loan proposal.
Obama has been talking about overhauling student loans since at least 2007, echoing GAO estimates that banks had been taking in $15 million a day peddling and securitizing private student loans without taking on any risk, since student loans are guaranteed by the government and cannot even be discharged in a bankruptcy. The “most controversial” aspect of his proposed legislation, according to the New York Times, would cut out the proverbial middleman so all students could borrow directly from the government. Any “controversy,” of course, is likely to be fomented by the banks that make money off the arrangement — as Citigroup’s letter would seem to indicate.
Citibank The Student Loan Corporation
May 7, 2009
Thank you for the opportunity to help you obtain the education of your choice. As a student loan provider for the past 50 years, Citi has provided financial aid assistance to millions of students and parents nationwide.
Given the challenging economy and continued increases in the cost of higher education, it is critical that the U.S. student lending system serves the best interests of students and their families. If you believe that competition and choice among student loan providers is valuable, you have an opportunity to make your voice heard.
Why Get Involved?
The government budget outline proposes offering federal student loans solely through the federal government’s Direct Lending Program starting July of next year. While this proposal will not impact a borrower’s ability to obtain a federal student loan, it will eliminate your ability to choose a student loan provider. It will also substantially increase the national debt since each and every federally-insured student loan will be funded by the Federal Treasury through the issuance of treasury securities. This proposal impacts you as a citizen – both as a taxpayer and as a borrower.
Why Does Competition And Choice Matter?
Without private lender involvement through the Federal Family Education Loan Program, students and their families will not enjoy the benefits that competition has made possible for more than 40 years. This competition has provided not only a choice of lenders, but also innovative products and services, such as:
* a variety of borrower benefits that lower your cost of borrowing
* financial literacy programs that educate you on how to borrow responsibly
* web-based tools and resources to advise you about your financing options
* default prevention services to help you pay back your loans
Competition also has driven increased customer satisfaction as a result of the responsiveness, personal attention and on-campus support that student loan lenders have provided to borrowers and schools nationwide.
Make Your Voice Heard
If you value the ability to shop for, evaluate and choose your student loan provider, make your voice heard by contacting your Members of Congress and by signing one of the online petitions that support borrower choice and competition in federal student lending.
The Student Loan Corporation
And that, we suppose, is just another example of grassroots democracy in action: petition supporters stand at 8712 and counting.