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NAME: Janine Petit TITLE: General Counsel and Chief Administrative Officer AGE: 51 ORGANIZATION: American Student Assistance (ASA), located in Boston, is a guarantor of the federal student loan program, managing a student loan portfolio worth $6 billion. Created by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in 1956, ASA began the first guaranteed student loan program in the U.S. It is currently the 20th largest nonprofit organization in Boston and one of the largest of approximately 30 such organizations nationally. “Sallie Mae is the largest,” Petit notes. ROLE AND MISSION: “We approve loans on behalf of the [U.S.] Department of Education,” says Petit, “and if a student defaults we reimburse the lender.” She notes, however, that ASA’s orientation is on default prevention, rather than collection. Its overall mission is “to assist borrowers in successfully completing a program of education financing and repayment” and ensure that the requirements of the Federal Family Education Loan Program (FFELP) are met. If a student applies to a lender, such as a bank, for an education loan, the application is forwarded to ASA, “and we run it through the system to make sure it’s complete and that the person is qualified for federal financial aid.” The loan is then guaranteed by the federal government, and, for the life of the loan, ASA keeps an active data file. ASA has developed a rapid loan processing system and, as of 2001, has begun licensing the software to others in the field. The organization also assists schools with “exit” counseling, and, if a student defaults on a loan, the lender will file a claim with ASA. To prevent such problems, ASA provides education and outreach to borrowers, and works with those in default to help them arrange repayment. Petit notes that loans, rather than outright grants, have increased over the past few years, and that such loans are usually a student’s first experience with credit issues. European students tend to receive grants, while, in the U.S. “with tuition rising and only so much to go around,” students more often receive loans.” “We then need to support them,” she says. LEGAL DEPARTMENT: ASA’s legal department consists of Petit, an assistant general counsel, paralegals and clerical staff. Petit also supervises the directors of Audit and Risk Management, and Regulatory Affairs, as well as a director of Industrial Affairs in Washington, who works with the federal government on industry initiatives. CHIEF RESPONSIBILITIES: Since 1998, Petit has been managing the corporate counsel, regulatory affairs, human resources, corporate communications, internal audit and school-lender review departments at ASA. In addition, she is involved with technology licensing and the areas of corporate intellectual property and privacy. “Law and technology is a growing area,” she says, adding that she personally responds to RFPs from other states interested in licensing ASA’s software. Petit is also corporate secretary and works with the board on all committees. ASA has a paid board, which, she explains, is common with not-for-profit organizations that require very active directors. LITIGATION: “We have very little litigation,” says Petit, who adds that in the past they occasionally had borrower litigation. When people are in default, it is generally because events such as unemployment, illness or divorce are causing financial hardship, she says. “They panic and don’t know where to go.” ASA has set up a special Borrower Services Division to provide help through counseling. “People realize we want to listen,” says Petit. “There are options.” OUTSIDE COUNSEL: Petit says she believes in finding outside counselors who are knowledgeable in a particular area, rather than having to bring someone “up to speed.” She also finds it helpful to work with attorneys who are used to dealing with not-for-profit organizations. For employment law matters, she turns to Sullivan Weinstein & McQuay in Boston. Iris Geik, a solo practitioner in Newton Center, Mass., does trademark work for ASA, while Richard Wiley at Boston’s Hill & Barlow is the nonprofit’s outside counsel for corporate matters. ROUTE TO THE TOP: Petit says that she “was always interested in law.” She was one of the founders of the Future Lawyers club while attending high school in New Kensington, Pa. Petit graduated magna cum laude from the University of Pittsburgh in 1971. Then, “bitten by the journalism bug,” she received an M.S. in journalism from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism in 1972. In 1976, she received her J.D. from the Columbia University School of Law, where she was a Harlan Fiske Stone Scholar. She was admitted to the New York Bar in 1977 and the Massachusetts Bar in 1984. Subsequently, Petit combined both fields, teaching journalism and the law, and information broadcasting for several years while in New York. Before coming to ASA, she worked for The Hearst Corp., concentrating on licensing, contract law and First Amendment issues. Earlier, “in the 1970s and 80s, I was lucky to work with companies (Westinghouse Group W Broadcasting and Metromedia Inc.) that were very public spirited, with a strong community orientation,” she says. FAMILY AND COMMUNITY: Petit lives in Newton, Mass., with her daughter, Samantha, 14. She has continued her interest in the media and community as co-chairwoman of the Community Advisory Board at WGBH, a group that, she notes, examines the station’s public service efforts and makes annual recommendations. Petit is also a director and past president of the New England Corporate Counsel Association and a member of the Privacy Committee of the Consumer Banking Association, and has just finished a term on the board of Campfire USA. “As a working mom, I’m aware of the importance of after-school care,” she says.

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