The Center for Responsive Politics said Nelnet contributed $24,200 to Johanns in the 2008 election cycle.
That put the Lincoln, Neb.-based student loan company as Johanns' third largest contributor ¿ behind Altell Corp. and ConAgra Foods ¿ in his race for the Senate.
But Johanns said he is opposed to direct government lending of student loans because of the impact it would have on "about 1,000 families in Lincoln," with members who work for Nelnet.
"What affects me most are the people who are there who have mortgages to pay and bills to pay, and all of those things, and I just don't think you should make this decision lightly," Johanns said. "It's not just our state; this industry has a presence in many states across the country."The House bill would end government subsidies for private lenders, boost Pell Grants for needy students and create grant programs to improve community colleges and college graduation rates, among other things. Ending private loan subsidies and having the government issue loans directly to students would save taxpayers an estimated $47 billion over 10 years when administrative costs and market conditions are considered, the Congressional Budget Office has said.