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PHEAA's life of luxury

| Friday, Aug. 5, 2005

Citibank has a great series of TV commercials that warn of the dangers of identity theft. They show people boasting about the extravagant trips and expensive purchases they were able to enjoy by gaining access to another person's credit.

But when it comes to living it up at someone else's expense, these identity thieves are amateurs compared to the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency.

While state families are struggling to keep up with escalating tuition costs, board members from the agency that is supposed to be helping them have been jetting across America and enjoying some of the nation's finest resorts. All at taxpayer expense, of course.

The Harrisburg Patriot-News brought the agency's excesses to light this week, focusing on a recent three-day PHEAA junket to Nemacolin Woodlands Resort that resulted in a bill of $135.637.74. The agency -- through the goodness of Pennsylvania taxpayers -- picked up the tab for 70 people, including PHEAA staffers, legislative staffers, spouses and guests.

The stated purposes of the retreat were to discuss revisions in the distribution formula for state grants and changes to federal laws regarding student loan providers, as well as to listen to presentations on demographics and presentations by business partners.

We believe the real purpose of the trip was to take advantage of Nemacolin's two high-quality golf courses, gourmet dining and wine tasting and a spa that offers Swedish massages.

Similar luxuries were probably enjoyed during an $87,519 trip to The Homestead in Virginia last year and a $90,411 stay at the Hyatt Regency Chesapeake Bay in Maryland in 2003 and a $90,355 vacation at the Colonial Williamsburg Inn in Virginia in 2001. Since 2000, PHEAA has spent $884,687 on trips to luxury resorts.

The people who are supposed to be serving the public are stealing our money and living like royalty. We wonder -- after a tax increase, outrageous pay hikes and perks and endless stories of corruption -- when will Pennsylvania residents decide they've had enough•

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