He noted that the interest rate on a private loan is largely based on the borrower's credit-worthiness. Without such loans, some students would not be able to attend college, he said.
As for the hard-sell tactics described by former Lehigh Valley College students and faculty, Joyce said they did not square with what LVC has reported to Sallie Mae about its financial aid practices.
"We have an understanding of what they're doing: extensive entrance counseling, extensive exit counseling," he said.
That is what Sallie Mae expects of the schools to which it provides lending services, he said. "We would certainly expect any of the schools to provide a range of touch points [so that] a student understands the obligation they would be undertaking."
Maggie Snell, 21, of Emmaus recalled the day she enrolled at LVC and applied for financial aid.
The school told her what to fill out, she said, "and they had me sign." There was no talk of interest rates or cheaper alternatives, she said. "No, none."
Sallie Mae said it discloses interest rates over the phone and in the mail, but Snell said she did not understand how much money was involved until after graduation last year. Because one of her student loans, for $14,840, has a variable rate currently at 15.375 percent interest, she is to pay back a total of $61,565 over 19 years, or more than four times the amount she originally borrowed.
Today, the visual communications major makes $7 an hour doing customer service at an embroidery shop. Her student loan bills total $408.47 a month.
"I'm planning on getting married, but I can't have a wedding or buy a house because I can't afford it," she said. "I need help."
Snell called LVC about her loans. The college, she said, told her she had signed the paperwork and was now on her own.
She sent letters to the state attorney general's Bureau of Consumer Protection and the office of U.S. Rep. Charles Dent, R- 15th District. One of Dent's aides sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Education on her behalf.
The response from the Education Department's Federal Student Aid division said: "If Ms. Snell believes that LVC misinformed her about these loans, she should contact an appropriate school official."
On Thursday night, Snell went back to LVC. She said she asked why the school didn't warn her about high interest and what it could do to help her now. Afterward, she described the encounter:
"They just said, "There's nothing we can do."'
An Exclusive Report from The Morning Call