SEIU tour takes on Sallie Mae

WASHINGTON: The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) is launching a "shadow" tour warning about loans and financial issues in response to a recently launched Sallie Mae Fund campus tour.

WASHINGTON: The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) is launching a "shadow" tour warning about loans and financial issues in response to a recently launched Sallie Mae Fund campus tour.

The Sallie Mae Fund Paying for College Bus Tour, which began on September 8 and will go through December 5, is in its fourth year. This year, it will stop in 65 US cities to reach 35,000 parents and students with information on scholarships and financial aid. The tour targets minority, low-income, and first-generation college students for whom money may be a deterrent to attending college.

"The workshops [stress] looking for free money first, such as scholarships and grants, and only then considering a loan," wrote Sallie Mae spokesperson Patricia Nash in an e-mail. She added that it will not promote information about individual loans or companies.

The SEIU plans to visit eight campuses to caution minority groups about Sallie Mae's loan interest rates, collection policies, and other issues. Renee Asher, SEIU Private Equity Project spokesperson, wouldn't specify if the visits will coincide with Sallie Mae's tour.

The SEIU also recently partnered with student groups on "1,000 Voices in 1,000 hours," an effort which gathered narratives from people who struggle to repay loans.

The SEIU is also protesting Sallie Mae's agreement to a private equity buyout, led by JC Flowers, Bank of America, and others, worth $25 billion. It argues that excesses in the private equity buyout industry are hurting US workers and putting pensions at risk.

"Here's the fear: Already the student-loan industry is one that's broken," Asher says. "[Private equity] is an industry that's notorious for squeezing profits out of the companies they buy out. What impact [will] this have on students?"

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