Tuesday, April 17, 2007

UWO caught taking 'bribes' from student loan companies

The Oshkosh Northwestern is reporting today that the administration cut a deal with Education Finance Partners. They paid the university over $10,000 to be put on the list of preferred loan providers.

This scandal has been sweeping the country, as it turns out many universities and loan administrators have been taking payments to put companies on the loan list. Several people have been indicted in New York for taking these payments, which smell like bribes. Links here and here.

The article notes that our institution used this payment to help with administration costs, but it stinks to me. Letting companies buy their way on to the list makes it look as though we are not interested in finding the best deals for students. Instead, the administration is looking to take care of its own needs.

What a sleazy process! It pains me to hear that we have been ill-serving our students like this!

13 comments:

lammers said...

I suppose it's just a logical extension of things like "exclusive pouring rights," hooking up Titan Card to one specific bank, etc.

I can't help but wonder if the UW System weren't so worried about adequate support from state government, would these things still happen?

Janine said...

As a student, I think it is a lot different than the soft drink contracts and even the Titan Card Bank contract.

The financial aid office has signed a contract that says in exchange for money, they will put the loan company on a perferred vendor list. Students look at that list as a general endorsement from the university as to reputable lenders. However, these lenders aren't on that list based on their reputation. Instead they are on that list because they gave money.

Financial aid is one of the biggest costs of the students who attend UW-O. For non-trad students it makes even more of a chunk of our debt in finishing school. For that very reason, these lists should not be tainted by money -- rather they should be based on reputation, quality of service, and best buys on interest rates.

Anonymous said...

Here is the story in the Journal-Sentinel:

http://www.jsonline.com/story/index.aspx?id=591822

lammers said...

Janine said...
>>As a student, I think it is a lot different than the soft drink contracts and even the Titan Card Bank contract.<<

Indeed. But what I meant was that it was the university's willingness to enter into "minor" "harmless" business deals that set up the slippery-slope leading to this. The fellow convicted of grand-theft auto usually started by swiping penny candy, after all.

Once you begin to treat the university under the much-ballyhooed business model, this is the inevitable consequence. Folks who opine about academia that "private enterprise wouldn't do it that way" or "You couldn't get away with that approach in business" need to thing about the *downside* of that attitude. Perhaps a bit more idealistic anti-materialistic ivory-towerism IS the best approach for all concerned.

sabai said...

I think the US Bank deal was much worse and I wish we had done something to stop it. Every student had to get a new ID card for no real reason. When I went to get the card I was asked by three different people if I wanted to set up a US Bank account. What ever deal they made, they got to solicit their services face to face to over 10,000 people and will continue to have their name on our university for years to come. That’s why I look so pissed off on my campus ID.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, it is pretty upsetting to see that there is no longer a UWO Credit Union ATM at Reeve.
However, the US Bank ATM is quite convenient--blagghh!!!
Now this whole buddy system that has been developed between US Bank and the university which makes it look like US bank is the ONLY option for a particular loan really pisses me off!!!
Why is the University now concerned?? "The university decided to terminate the relationship... in order to avoid any appearance of impropriety, UWO Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Petra Roter said. It may percieved as being unethical?? Because of some attention??
UGGHHHH!!!!

Anonymous said...

This is the tip of the iceberg with financial aid. We had 2 very sharp staffers retire from that department about 2-3 years ago and they really ran the department. They had concerns over the managment of the department but their concerns were laughed off by Dempsey.

The Dept of Ed is threatening sanctions because required reporting is largely either incorrect or ignored entirely. There are problems with UW System because of internal audit findings.

Will it get fixed? No. The VC-SA is protecting this department for some reason and there are no chages are being made or contemplated.

Check out today's Northwestern for more info on the scandal.

Jenni Ryan said...

I want to point out that the UWO Credit Union does still have an ATM in the Reeve Union. It is now located in front of the Credit Union office near the Algoma Blvd entrance. The ATM is free for UWO Credit Union members and only costs $1 for non-members (much less expensive than the alternative ATM in the Reeve Union). The UWO Credit Union also offers all types of loans with competitive interest rates. Plus, it's right on campus.

Anonymous said...

To quote Bea Contreras in the Advance Titan yesterday: “I don’t see the conflict of interest, but there is an appearance of a conflict of interest in the mind of the consumer,” Contreras said. “With the state budgets, (the Financial Aid Office) lost a position here. If we had more support from state dollars, (EFP’s offer) may not have been as attractive.”

Great logic there. Many cheating spouses can also say "honey if you were cuter and more fun I wouldn't have to sleep around on you".

It isn't Fin Aid's fault they signed the deal it is UW System's fault.

As the old saying goes denial isn't just a river in Egypt!

lammers said...

Anonymous said: "Great logic there. Many cheating spouses can also say "honey if you were cuter and more fun I wouldn't have to sleep around on you"."

Ignoring aspects of "fault" and "blame," "right" and "wrong", we can still say that "actions have consequences."

If I wander a crime-ridden district in a drunken stupor at 3AM flashing a huge roll of $50 bills, I do not DESERVE to be robbed; it does not make it RIGHT to rob me. Nonetheless, robbery is a forseeable consequence of my act.

In a similar vein, when the parsimonious legislature insists on starving the university system, telling it to be "more creative" in finding funding and to "co-operate" with the business community, the current situation is easily seen as a forseeable consequence.

Like Capt. Renault in "Casablanca," it is utter hypocrisy to be "shocked" by this situation. It's the natural consequence of past acts by the state government. One cannot set up an intolerable system and then complain when the victims of it attempt to make the best of the hand dealt to them.

Anonymous said...

Lammers wrote "If I wander a crime-ridden district in a drunken stupor at 3AM flashing a huge roll of $50 bills, I do not DESERVE to be robbed; it does not make it RIGHT to rob me. Nonetheless, robbery is a forseeable consequence of my act."

Forseeable, although the robber is not less guilty as the victim does not entrap the robber. Being creative means neither being stupid nor being unethical. Rather, it means to attempt to find another solution to said challenge.

Likewise, if the Fin Aid folks would've done their job this past year the university wouldn't have been hit with sanctions from the Dept of Ed, supposedly north of $50,000. The sanctions far and away eat up any compensation earned for these loans.

As well, if you'd look at the work load of that department, you'd note that the staffing level actaully is more than adequate as about 6 years ago the whole student loan process went to a much more automated format so that the student picks one lender as a freshman, rather than having to do it annually. Less work equals less staff members.

Anonymous said...

so what were the sanctions for? 50K is a very hefty fine.

lammers said...

Yet-another-of-the-seemingly-endless-supply-of-anonymouses wrote:

>>As well, if you'd look at the work load of that department, you'd note that the staffing level actaully is more than adequate as about 6 years ago the whole student loan process went to a much more automated format so that the student picks one lender as a freshman, rather than having to do it annually. Less work equals less staff members.<<

Well, yes it would, if there were actually less work to be done. You've told us (on some authority one guesses) that each application now takes less time to process due to automation. But you've said nothing about the numbers of students seeking financial aid. I don't know if that number is up or down, but if it's up (as I suspect it is, due to tuition increases outstripping inflation) it could take a lot more person-hours to handle the work load, even if it's easier to handle each student. In other words, if you streamline the process by 50%, but double the number of applicants, you're right back where you were.