U.S. Education Department officials did not engage in illegal lobbying in 2009 when they encouraged higher education leaders to publicly endorse legislation that overhauled the student loan programs, the agency’s inspector general said in a report Monday.
The report by the inspector general’s office came in response to accusations made by Republican Congressional leaders in late 2009 that the department’s political leaders had violated federal law in a series of public and private exchanges with college officials that year over the Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act, which gutted the lender-based guaranteed student loan program and poured tens of billions of dollars into the Pell Grant Program, among other things.
Republican leaders steadfastly opposed the legislation, which many of them derided as a government takeover of the student loan program. As the legislation lurched toward apparent passage throughout 2009, they made nearly every possible effort to derail it.
Late that year, they alleged that in a series of calls and other communications — including an October 2009 call with community college presidents on which Inside Higher Ed reported — "department officials have pressed colleges and universities to support the legislation and implement the proposed changes before Congress actually changes the law." The legislation passed Congress in March 2010, with generally strong support from higher education leaders, though they were divided over the wisdom of ending the lender-based loan program and disappointed that it ultimately provided far less money than President Obama had originally promised.
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