May 9, 2012

As Latinos Suffer From High Student Debt, Congressional Hispanic Caucus Goes Golfing With Sallie Mae

On Monday, Latino members of Congress held their annual Congressional Hispanic Caucus fundraising event at a golf course near Andrews Air Force Base. The caucus serves as a forum for Latino members of both the House and the Senate, but often functions as an avenue for corporate lobbyists to funnel cash to lawmakers under the guise of a charitable cause.

Congressman Joe Baca (D-CA), the former chair of the caucus, won the event’s “closest-shot-to-the-hole” contest. He competed against lobbyists from ExxonMobil, Wal-Mart, and the liquor industry’s Distilled Spirits Council. The golf championship’s goal, to raise money for Latino scholarships, is a worthy cause. But the title of the event — “Keeping the Promise of Higher Education for Latinos” — is ironic given that one of the corporate sponsors of the event, Sallie Mae, has made hugely excessive profits off of the student debt of hundreds of thousands of Latino youth.

Carmen Guzman Lowrey, one of the lobbyists to share the green with Congress members on Monday, is vice president of federal affairs at Sallie Mae.

Latino students suffer from fairly high rates of student debt — debt that is often serviced by Sallie Mae.  Sallie Mae lobbied aggressively in an unsuccessful effort to prevent President Obama from reforming the student loan system, a move that eliminated tens of billions in wasteful middleman fees for lenders like Sallie Mae and put the money toward student aid and deficit reduction.

Events like the golf fundraiser on Monday build relationships that go a long way in terms of policy. Several CHC members — including Joe Baca — have voted in the past to prop up predatory for-profit colleges, many of which have a business strategy of targeting low income and minority students with subpar educational programs at incredibly high cost.