A temporary solution to the financial problems of a large student loan guarantor was announced yesterday, but not by the Education Department, which has been discussing a possible takeover of the Kansas organization for more than a week.
The Student Loan Marketing Association, known as Sallie Mae, announced it may extend an additional $200 million in credit to the Higher Education Assistance Foundation (HEAF), an Overland Park, Kan., guarantor that department officials last week said they expected to collapse. Sallie Mae, which lent HEAF $200 million last year, has expressed interest in taking over the financially troubled guarantor.
The Education Department was involved in negotiations on the $200 million loan, but spokeswoman Etta Fielek denied the department had guaranteed repayment. She said the loan would probably see HEAF through the fiscal year, when the government would begin repaying the guarantor 100 percent of loan defaults, instead of 80 percent.
"I don't buy the idea of a loan guarantee. We are doing exactly what we would be doing anyway," Fielek said.
But a Sallie Mae news release suggested that the department had provided an indirect guarantee in the form of "assurances" that the government would continue to repay HEAF for defaults. Last week, a HEAF official cited a federal guarantee of a private loan to HEAF as a possible solution.
Meanwhile, a team from the department inspector general's office in Chicago has arrived at HEAF offices in St. Paul, Minn., according to Lynn Greenwood of HEAF. A department auditing team from Washington has departed, Fielek said.