News in Brief: A Washington Roundup

November 13, 2002 2 min read

Political Spending By Lenders Cited

The top five student-loan corporations devoted a combined total of $60 million to political spending over the past three election cycles, including $49 million on lobbying, according to a recent report by a watchdog organization.

“Lending a Hand” is available from the Higher Education Project of the State Public Interest Research Group. (Requires Adobe’s Acrobat Reader.) See also an executive summary.

The lobbying by the lending organizations came from both in-house staff members and outside firms, according to “Lending a Hand,” a report released last month by the Higher Education Project of the State Public Interest Research Group, based in Washington.

Included in that spending was nearly $5 million in “soft money” campaign contributions over those three federal election cycles—leading up to the 1998, 2000, and 2002 elections. Amounts rose from $1 million in 1997-98 to $1.7 million in 2001-02. Soft-money contributions—which were severely restricted in a campaign-finance law passed earlier this year—are the unlimited donations given to national political parties, rather than individual candidates.

The report focuses on the five largest holders of federally subsidized student loans: Sallie Mae, the Student Loan Corporation of Citibank, First Union National Bank, Wells Fargo Education Financial Services, and the National Education Loan Network.

Stephen M. Heyman, the director of public affairs in Sallie Mae’s Washington office, said more students are being helped by low-cost college loans today than ever before. Federal policymakers should be aware of that fact, he added.

“The federal student-loan program is little understood, particularly when you realize it’s benefitting 62 million Americans,"Mr. Heyman said.

—Sean Cavanagh

Departments Promote A Global Perspective

What do Afghan President Hamid Karzai, United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, and Rutgers undergraduate Ekisha Sykes have in common?

More information about International Education Week is available from the State Department.

They all have taken part in international-exchange programs offered jointly by the Department of Education and the Department of State.

The two departments are hoping to call attention to the experiences of high-profile world figures and lesser known students when they celebrate International Education Week, Nov. 18-22. The celebration will highlight programs that send Americans abroad to widen their horizons and attract future leaders from other countries to study in the United States.

Secretary of Education Rod Paige said in a statement that the goal is to emphasize the importance of increasing student knowledge and awareness of the world’s cultures and languages, and to promote diplomacy.

Schools might promote international pen-pal programs, invite speakers with international experience to share their stories with students, and ask mayors or governors to issue proclamations to commemorate International Education Week, the department suggests.

—Michelle R. Davis

A version of this article appeared in the November 13, 2002 edition of Education Week as News in Brief: A Washington Roundup