first_img 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! Rachel Jones, a senior at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, was sitting through a student-loan workshop that university officials had told her was mandatory when a creepy feeling kicked in. The woman in the front of the classroom asked students to fill out forms with personal information — including names, addresses and phone numbers of relatives, an employer and a friend. Jones recalled that she also talked about “other loan companies” that would saddle students with unfavorable rates if they decided to consolidate loans on graduation. Unable to keep quiet, Jones raised her hand: “I just said, excuse me, who are you and what is your affiliation?” The woman identified herself as an employee of All Student Loan, a California-based lender. Jones, a 22-year-old who has $17,000 in student loans, had unwittingly stumbled upon another undisclosed relationship between universities and loan companies. Recent investigations have largely focused on incentives that lenders give universities to get coveted placement on the preferred lending lists students use to take out loans when they enter college. But colleges also give lenders crucial access to students when they are graduating, using lenders to conduct exit counseling required under federal law for students who have taken out federally guaranteed student loans. In some cases, loan company representatives come on campus and run sessions for seniors on loan repayment. In others, colleges direct students to loan company Web sites, including those of Wells Fargo, Citibank and Sallie Mae. And in many cases, the loan companies are pushing a product: their consolidation loans. Anne Prisco, vice president for enrollment management at Loyola, defended the practice, saying the lenders allowed on campus were carefully selected. “Every year when we have exit interviews, we ask if they want to assist,” Prisco said. “They are just there to provide additional information.” Others say the access to students is improper. Heather McDonnell, the director of financial aid for Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, N.Y., said she thought using loan companies for exit counseling was “absolutely” inappropriate. “Behind every lender is a consolidation loan,” McDonnell said. “I don’t allow anybody to come on my campus to come and do that. I just don’t think it’s a good idea. I think that information should be coming directly from the financial aid office.” Many students have various kinds of loans, and consolidation allows them to combine the loans to pay a single interest rate in one monthly payment. Karen Gross, the president of Southern Vermont College and a professor of law at New York Law School, said that depending on a student’s prospective job, income and health, consolidating loans was often unwise. For example, she said, students who take certain public-sector jobs may sign away available benefits if they consolidate federal student loans. “There is no shortage of erroneous information that a student could receive in a group counseling session,” Gross said. “Student loan consolidation makes sense for many students, but for many students it is absolutely not the right choice.” She added that “the reason this is bothersome is that students are required to engage in exit interviews, and so lenders have a captive audience.” The reason exit interviews are mandatory is that the federal government wants to crack down on default rates. According to the Education Department, exit counseling is intended to explain borrowers’ rights and responsibilities, loan repayment and the consequences of default.last_img