An estimated 300 employees of collection agency Pioneer Credit Recovery, concerned that student loan reform legislation that might be packaged with the health care bill in Congress could jeopardize their jobs, protested on Tuesday in Buffalo, N.Y. outside district offices for Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., and Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-Fairport.

Pioneer Credit, which is owned by Sallie Mae, employs about 1,000 people at operations in Arcade, N.Y. and Perry, N.Y.

Last year, the House passed a student loan reform bill that supporters believe would save money by making the federal government the only originator of federal student loans, a shift that would hurt private lenders. Some of the savings would be directed toward Pell Grants for low-income students. Backers of the reform effort say the overall thrust is to make college more affordable. But some Senate Democrats have expressed concerns about the legislation’s provisions, citing fears about job losses in their home states.

Sallie Mae, which offers and manages government-guaranteed student loans, favors student loan reform but advocates a different plan that it contends will not put jobs at risk. It also maintains that bundling the legislation with health care will deny the Senate a chance to properly debate the student loan reform issues.

Sallie Mae agrees that student loan reforms are needed but warns that if the current legislation is approved, some 400 of its jobs in New York could be lost. Conwey Casillas, a Sallie Mae spokesperson, said Pioneer Credit employees have been tracking the reform issue for about a year and had been seeking ways to get involved. 

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