Employees at Sallie Mae are worried that the Obama administration's plan to overhaul the student loan business will lead to massive job losses across the country. The center in Lynn Haven employs 700 people, and they rallied Thursday to save their jobs.
The local Sallie Mae facility accounts for almost a third of the $100 billion federal student loan market. The proposed legislation would make the federal government the sole issuer of those loans. Proponents say it would save the government tens of billions of dollars; but, others claim the market must remain competitive.
Conwey Casillas, Sallie Mae's Public Affairs vice president, says, "A competitive student loan environment where schools, universities and colleges choose the service providers which provide the best service, that impacts students' lives."
Sallie Mae officials say the government's plan could be devastating to their corporate structure. Renee Mang, senior vice president at Sallie Mae, says, "It would require Sallie Mae to re-evaluate our geographic outlay."
And that, in turn, would be a blow to the local economy. Darren Parker, who has worked at Sallie Mae for over fifteen years, says, "No doubt, they account for millions of dollars in economic impact, and all of that would be nearly impossible to replace."
Parker, who is a Bay County native, says losing his job could force him to leave the area. State legislators worry that could hamper economic recovery in Florida. Rep. Marti Coley (R-Dist. 7) says, "If we pass legislation that reduces the number of jobs, we're not only hurting the number of students that can get into school, but we're hurting our economy."
Sallie Mae officials launched a petition drive Thursday to tell Congress to save Florida jobs and keep the market competitive. Under the Obama plan, the federal government would be the sole issuer of student loans, but the private sector would still provide service. Sallie Mae is advocating an alternate proposal offered by the student loan community that keeps the market competitive, yet still achieves President Obama's goals of driving higher education costs down.