WASHINGTON -- The Student Loan Marketing Association said its voting and nonvoting common shares had been converted to a single class of unrestricted voting common shares as mandated by the Higher Education Act Amendments of 1992.

The law, which included an overhaul of higher education funding and an experiment of direct student lending by the government, was signed by President Bush on July 23.

The Sallie Mae stock conversion took effect immediately. Its shares began trading on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol SLM.

Also changing is the way Sallie Mae's directors are elected. The common shareholders will elect seven directors who are or have been affiliated with financial institutions within the past five years, and seven who are or have been affiliated with post-secondary educational institutions in that time.

Under the old system, financial institutions and educational institutions that owned restricted voting shares each elected seven directors.

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