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#WLAM2015 Reaches 3 Million Worldwide

This past month, the American Society of Landscape Architects joined World Landscape Architecture Month (WLAM), a global effort to raise awareness of the profession. During this time, our members took nearly 4,000 pictures of landscape architect-designed spaces with our “Designed by a Landscape Architect” card and posted to them social media using #WLAM2015. These posts […] […]

Watch: Inside the LA Studio

Each year at the ASLA Annual Meeting, some of the world’s top landscape architects and designers explain themselves in front of an audience of hundreds. These designers give in-depth presentations, explaining the logic behind their designs and their latest projects. Now, ASLA has made these presentations available online for free. From the ASLA 2014 Annual […] […]

DesignIntelligence 2015 Landscape Architecture Program Rankings

DesignIntelligence recently announced its 2015 landscape architecture graduate and undergraduate program rankings. Once again, Louisiana State University came in at the top of undergraduate landscape architecture programs. And for the 11th year, Harvard University came in as the best graduate program in the annual survey conducted by DesignIntelligence on behalf of the Design Futures Council. […] […]

A New Guide to Denver’s Landscapes

In advance of the 2014 ASLA Annual Meeting in Denver, The Cultural Landscape Foundation (TCLF) has unveiled What’s Out There Denver, the first in a new series of free web-based, city-focused guides. TCLF’s guide covers more than 150 years of landscape design history and city shaping in Denver. Guide users can explore nearly 70 sites […] […]

ASLA Announces 2014 Student Awards

The American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) announces the winners of the 2014 Student Awards. This year, 21 submissions received awards, out of more than 500 entries from 77 schools. The October issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine (LAM) features the winning projects and is available online for free viewing. October’s LAM will be featured on […] […]

ASLA Survey: Diversity Among Graduating Landscape Architecture Students Increases

ASLA recently released its annual graduating student survey. This survey was completed by graduating students from 47 accredited undergraduate and graduate landscape architecture programs. The purpose of this survey is to gather information on post-graduation plans. While the average age for undergraduates and graduates remained consistent with previous years, 24 and 30 respectively, and the […] […]

Folly Forest: From Asphalt to Educational Landscape

Browsing through the latest issue of Azure magazine, one can see socially conscious design is making its way even into the far reaches of Winnipeg, Canada. Folly Forest, a great, small project at the Stratchona School, which in a low-income neighborhood, was put together with just $80,000 by local design firm Straub Thurmayr Landscape Architects […] […]

Public universities, for-profit colleges seek higher stake in student loans

Younger voters are notoriously disinterested in the political process, at least when it comes to elections for Congress. But a Sunlight Foundation analysis of student loan lobbying data suggests that major players in the political process are interested in them.

Since Congress voted in 2010 to push commercial banks out of the federally funded student loan market, lobbying by commercial banks on the subject has dropped significantly. But lobbying by other entities that have much to gain from keeping young adults in debt continues apace – especially higher education organizations, which have redoubled their efforts to ensure public lines of credit for school are not neglected.

Lobbying by the education sector increased from 315 total reports between 2008 and 2010 to 480 reports between 2011 and 2013 — a 52 percent increase. With a growing majority of students relying on loans to attend college, universities have obvious interests in ensuring access to credit.

Figure 1. Graphic credit: Sunlight Foundation

The most active education organizations are a mixed bag. Some, like Emory University (18 reports since 2008) or the University of Iowa (22 reports since 2008) are well-regarded and nationally-known institutions. Others, like Greater Caribbean Learning Resources (22 reports since 2008) are for-profit institutions. One of the most active colleges, Keiser Collegiate System (21 reports since 2008), is a for-profit turned non-profit.

When we zoom into the organization level, the most active organizations before the 2010 reforms were major student loan providers SLM Corp. (45 reports from 2008-2010), the parent company of Sallie Mae and First Marblehead (41 reports in 2008-2010). Interestingly, Ashland Inc. (a chemical company) and Eisai Co. Ltd. (a pharmaceutical company) were both quite active on “student loans,” but their interest in the issue was more indirect. Both firms held large positions in securitized student loans during the financial crisis when the securities market collapsed. They advocated for the government to restore liquidity to a “frozen” market in student loan-backed auction rate securities (SLARS).

Figure 2. Graphic credit: Sunlight Foundation

Notably, not a single organization dedicated to representing students’ or borrowers’ interests shows up in any of our lists.

Meanwhile, since 2010, financial sector lobbying declined (Table 1). In fact, lobbying reports mentioning “student loans” by both the securities and investments sector as well as commercial banks declined by 43.2 percent — from 373 reports (2008-2010) to 212 reports (2011-2013).

Sector Before Reform (2008 — 2010) After Reform (2011 — 2013)
Securities and Investments 218 128
Commercial Banks 155 84
Total 373 212
Table 1

Figure 3. Graphic credit: Sunlight Foundation

But financial lobbying on the topic of student loans didn’t go away. After all, there is still a thriving private student loan market.

Now, it’s the loan servicers who probably have the most to lose. One bill, introduced by Sens. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and Mark Warner, D-Va., would change repayment structures. Rather than being on the hook for a fixed payment, borrowers would be on the hook for 10 percent of their annual income, capped at $10,000 a year. Another bill, is a proposal by Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., to allow the 25 million or so individuals with outstanding debt to refinance their loans at lower interest rates, which would amount to a tremendous loss in revenue for loan servicers.

In general, loan servicers are compensated based on the unpaid principal balance. They also often get money from late fees. In other words, the easier it is for borrowers to pay off their loans, the less profitable it is to be a loan servicer. As a result, a lot of lobbying by loan providers is defensive; they profit from the existence of a student loan bubble, and anything that challenges it (including direct subsidy for higher education) is a threat to their business model.

While different organizations have different reasons for being active on student loans, a few things are clear: One, a thicket of organized interests care about the issue; two, the passage of the 2010 student loan reform bill changed that thicket; and three, not a single organization representing students or borrowers shows up in any of our lists of leading organizations.


Discover a Career in Landscape Architecture

The American Society of Landscape Architects has launched a new Career Discovery web site to help young people explore the profession of landscape architecture. To help teachers steer young people towards the field, a new resource center has also been created, filled with classroom activities. The Career Discovery website, aimed at students in middle school […] […]

Coast to Coast, Landscape Architects Serve the Public

The ASLA public awareness campaign launched the Year of Public Service (YPS) in 2013 for two reasons. First, the campaign encouraged ASLA members to ramp up existing pro-bono efforts. Second, ASLA wanted to highlight the great service projects already done by landscape architects across the country. A year later, the YPS blog boasts nearly 50 […] […]