Student loan lobbyists have been distributing a memo around Capitol Hill, with the misleading claim that if the FFEL program is eliminated in favor of direct lending, 35,000 jobs will be lost. The claim has been repeated in Time, the Hill, the National Journal and the New York Times, just to name a few.

In fact, there are only 30,000 people employed in the entire industry, which includes three sectors: origination, guarantee agencies and loan servicing. The number comes from a a survey conducted by the National Council of Higher Education Loan Programs — an association for student loan companies. The only sector that would be replaced entirely by direct lending is origination, the least labor-intensive of the three. According to Ben Miller at the Quick and the Ed:

Loan origination in its most basic form is the process of obtaining the money for student loans and transferring those funds to borrowers or to their institutions. This is a very inexpensive activity. According to information from the U.S. Department of Education, its complete cost of originating a Direct Loan last year was around $5.50. That figure includes around $1.50 in administrative and other expenses.

When you compare that with the $75 per loan that the student lenders are currently being paid for loan origination under ECASLA, you get an idea where the savings in SAFRA are going to come from.

Servicing jobs would actually increase, because private companies are being awarded contracts to service all of the direct loans made by the government. Nelnet (Ben Nelson’s biggest donor) saw their servicing revenues increased 13% in 2009 as a result of a contract they won to service student loans for the Department of Education, and their stock rose 6% on the news.

And most of the jobs in the guarantee agencies (roughly 4000-5000) are being saved courtesy of money stipulated in the SAFRA bill itself.

Tim Ranzetta of the independent Student Lending Analytics estimates that more realistically,  “the number of U.S. based jobs related to federal student loans is likely to range from a net increase of 300 jobs to a net loss of 4,750 over the next several years.” Pedro de la Torre at the Nation puts the number “between 170 net US jobs lost under the worst interpretation, and 1,870 US jobs gained under the best.”

Whether the jobs on the origination side are even in jeopardy is open to speculation.  Sallie Mae says that 2,000 of their 8,000 employees may lose their jobs, but they are also bringing 3,500 jobs back to the US in order to qualify for the servicing contract on direct loans they were recently awarded.   Citibank, the second biggest student loan originator, recently reassigned 5% of its loan origination and servicing employees (43) to the company’s credit card business rather than laying them off.  Citi CEO Vikram Pandit  said “whether or not the government makes the loan, somebody needs to process them, and we’re doing that right now.”

None of these estimates factor in the jobs that would be saved or created by money going to state education programs with the passage of SAFRA.

Ranzetta has done a series of posts on the true jobs situation.  You can read more here, here, here and here.

The bottom line:  job losses in a tough economy are nothing to treat lightly, but the claims made by lobbyists don’t hold to close scrutiny, and the jobs impact must be weighed against the number of students currently enrolled in each state if money that could be going to schools is instead propping up a costly and unnecessary industry that is surviving only because of government subsidy.


More than 30,000 Expected Job Losses
Under Administration Proposal

Thousands of additional jobs will be adversely impacted

March, 2009

As the national struggle to deal with a severe economic crisis and a national unemployment rate of 8.1 percent — the highest level since 1983 — it is a critical time to reinforce successful solutions, not abandon them. Ensuring the continuation of thousands of jobs for individuals singularly focused on helping millions of students enter and succeed in higher education is a “win-win” in today’s deeply stressed economy. It preserves jobs for the workers of today, while guaranteeing access to aid to millions of students whose skills will help maingain the nation’s pre-eminent place in the global economy.

The Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) Program is a solution that works. For more than 43 years, this public-private partnershp between the federal government and private lenders and non-profit organizations has provided more than $650 billion to millions of families.

In each and every state, FFEL providers employ hundreds of individual and stimulate their local economy. Below is information collected by the student loan associations on the current number of individuals employed by FFEL organizations. These do not represent the entire FFEDL community; the overall employment number is higher.

FFEL Employee Reporting

Number of organizations providing current employee numbers:


Total employees reported:

30,082 (1)

Reported number of employees covered by a collective bargaining agreement:


This number does not include the thousands of individuals who work for local businesses and provide technological and other support services to FFEL organizations. In addition to the figure above for FFEL participants, the associations estimate the proposal could have an adverse impact on as many as 50,000 additional workers providing services for FFEL participants.


(1) Due to the College Cost Reduction Act of 2007 (P.L. 110-84) and the credit crisis, many jobs have already been eliminated in the FFEL Program. Mark Kantrowitz, publisher of, estimates that the total job losss is more than 6,206 and acknowledges that this likely underestimates the overall total since it does not capture all participants. Based on survey responses from 43 FFELP organizations, the student loan associations confirm that the number of jobs lost as a reslut of CCRAA and the credit market is more than 6,000.

FFELP Employees by State

Below is a state-by-state breakdown of FFEL employees.

It only reflects employee data reported to the student loan associations, the actual number is higher

State # Employees State Employees
AK 94 MT 229
AL 73 NC 320
AR 92 ND 57
AZ 209 NE 891
CA 1330 NH 360
CO 880 NJ 755
CT 233 NM 176
DC 44 NV 321
DE 488 NY 2000
FL 1210 OH 1240
GA 458 OK 213
IA 626 OR 221
IL 1383 PA 2945
IN 2622 RI 100
KS 2 SC 210
KY 434 SD 1234
LA 142 TN 731
MA 1426 TX 1593
MD 31 UT 191
ME VA 833
MI 101 VT 360
MN 675 WA 68
MO 641 WI 1121
MS 48 WY 60
Total 30082