Blagojevich shows true colors

By Jessica King

Student loans should never be jeopardized.

That’s almost what happened two weeks ago, however, when Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s budget director, John Filan, introduced a plan to sell off Illinois’ student loan portfolio to private, out-of-state purchasers.

Not only would this plan have been horrible for college students, many of whom are already struggling with finances, but the timing of its unveiling proves the sneakiness of the governor’s administration.

The plan came to state legislators slightly over 24 hours before the state budget had to be approved, leaving little time for debate or media coverage. In a way, that timing turned out to be a blessing, because the proposal fizzled before the midnight deadline, according to a June 1 article in the Chicago Sun-Times.

True, selling student loans guaranteed by the Illinois Student Assistance Commission would have garnered the state $300 million to $500 million in a one-time payment, but this was a $3.5-billion portfolio.

Shouldn’t a budget director realize a little cash now isn’t worth selling off students’ futures?

Right now, money paid into the ISAC from outstanding loans gets recycled for future student loans. Money in and money out. This system works. As the saying goes, if it ain’t broke, don’t … well, destroy it?

If private lenders got control of the debts, they probably wouldn’t be as sympathetic to students who are having difficulty making payments. Interest rates would probably rise eventually, because the lenders need to make a profit.

Only part of any money gained from a one-time payment would have gone solely to education.

Not only this, but the move would have immediately cut 500 jobs at the ISAC.

“I just find that it’s unconscionable that an agency that is to be impacted this dramatically didn’t even know about this until 30 minutes ago,” said Sen. J. Bradley Burzynski, according to an article on the Copley News Service.

It is also unconscionable that Blagojevich and Filan put some quick moolah over the ongoing needs of students.

ISAC executive director Larry Matejka cited how Pennsylvania recently rejected a similar plan. Of course it did. Raiding government resources for one-time revenue sources is no way to maintain a sound budget .

Student voters should take moves like this into account come time for re-election. The government needs to care about students, as they will be the ones filling job vacancies within society.

Legislators were right to ditch the 11th-hour plan, but the plan shouldn’t have been introduced, especially at such a late time.

If students care about their student loans, they should hope the Blagojevich’s administration doesn’t resurrect the idea.

Columns reflect the opinion of the author and not necessarily that of the Northern Star staff.