|Today Delegate Marcus Simon, former senior education counsel to Senator Edward Kennedy Michael Dannenberg, Generation Progress Action Executive Director Maggie Thompson, and Democrats at UVA Chair Elizabeth Parker laid out why Ed Gillespie’s years of lobbying for predatory student loan companies disqualifies him from serving as Virginia’s next governor. On a media conference call, speakers discussed why — in the wake of the Washington Post’s devastating report detailing Gillespie’s work for predatory loan companies — the Republican gubernatorial nominees is unfit to oversee Virginia’s higher education system.
Listen to the press call here.
The Post investigation revealed that, as a lobbyist in the 2000s, Gillespie and his firm made hundreds of thousands of dollars working to keep students loans expensive — and lobbying against policies to make it easier for Virginia students to afford to go to college. With Gillespie’s help, Bank of America and the private student loan lender, Nelnet, tried to kill legislation to take money away from predatory student loan companies and put it towards lowering the interest on student loans.
“It has been shocking to read that Ed Gillespie made hundreds of thousands of dollars lobbying against student loan borrowers and on behalf of private companies that seek to profit from keeping student loan interest rates high and limited oversight of student loan oversight practices,” said Delegate Marcus Simon.
“Gillespie hasn’t been telling Virginians his firm specifically lobbied for the Nelnet corporation at a time when it worked separately to keep nearly $300 million in illegally claimed student loan payments,” said Michael Dannenberg, former Senior Education Counsel to Sen. Edward M. Kennedy. “The ill-gotten gains from the Nelnet student loan bank heist could have wiped out the student loan debt of every borrower at the University of Virginia, Virginia Commonwealth, George Mason, William and Mary and Virginia Tech.”
“We want to be sure borrowers in Virginia understand there is a clear difference between these two candidates and know about Ed Gillespie’s background lobbying on behalf of the people that are making money off of student debt,” said Maggie Thompson, Generation Progress Action Executive Director. “As late as this year there are still borrowers that are having issues with Nelnet with some of the same types of problems that they were having back when Ed Gillespie lobbied for them. There is such a difference between the two candidates in Virginia this year.”
“Ed Gillespie claims to be running as a Governor for all Virginians, but it’s pretty clear from this investigation that Gillespie never has and never will be able to stand up for Virginia students like me,” said Elizabeth Parker, Chair of Democrats at UVA and a fourth year student at UVA. “As a student at a school like UVA, it’s frustrating that Ed Gillespie continues to sell himself as a viable candidate to students around the Commonwealth, when it’s clear that his loyalties don’t lie with us as students, but with these predatory student loan companies.”
Fortunately, Gillespie and the student loan companies failed — and Congress passed the College Cost Reduction and Access Act. Under the new law the number of Virginians receiving Pell grants doubled — and the amount of grant money they received increased substantially. The legislation also significantly reduced the interest rate on student loans and — and doubled the number of Virginia student using these low-interest loans.
Gillespie has a long history of working for corporate interests at the expense of Virginians.