Last month the University of Notre Dame registered as a lobbying organization for the first time. The Fighting Irish had hired outside lobbyists since 1999 at least, but this fall is the first time they employed an in-house lobbyist — John F. Sturm, former head of the Newspaper Association of America.

Notre Dame’s disclosure form states that Sturm will lobby on budget and education matters in general, and under “specific lobbying issues” lists only “higher education related issues and initiatives.”

One issue might be religious liberty — Notre Dame is suing the Department of Health and Human Services because the Catholic college doesn’t want to be forced to pay its employees in birth control.

But it’s also about federal aid. Student Nate Balmert, writing athe Irish Rover (the conservative student paper at Notre Dame) has a pretty sharp take on this matter:

As an expensive private institution the University of Notre Dame has a vested interest in maintaining government-subsidized, low interest rate loans. Loans of this nature were recently extended by both parties in Congress.

You see what’s going on. Student loan subsidies don’t accrue simply to students — they also make it easier for colleges to remain very expensive, thus pay administrators well and have really nice amenities.

Balmert has this point in his conclusion:

It seems strange that taxpayer-funded institutions can spend money to lobby in Washington. Lobbying is important for both research interests and public policy decisions affecting all institutions of higher education.