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Student Loan Officer Axed

(AP / file)
After a six-week probe, a second major university financial aid director has lost her job for accepting undisclosed financial benefits from a student loan company. Today, Johns Hopkins University, in Baltimore, announced that Ellen Frishberg, who oversaw financial aid for undergraduate and graduate students in the university's arts and science and engineering schools since 1989, has resigned. Frishberg had been on paid administrative leave since April 9, when Johns Hopkins learned that Student Loan Xpress had paid her $65,000 over the past five years – years in which SLX was on a list of lenders recommended to students and their families. The payments included $43,000 in consulting fees and $22,000 in tuition payments for a doctoral program at the University of Pennsylvania in higher education administration.

Prior to 2002, Frishberg was a paid consultant to American Express, when it was in the student loan business. Frishberg never disclosed the payments, and no on else on staff knew about them, the school said. Frishberg once sat on the advisory committee to Sallie Mae, the nation's largest student lender, but the school knew that.

The revelations arose from a probe led by New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, whose office is investigating illicit kickbacks to universities – a percentage of loan volume steered their way -- from student lenders and also lender gifts of stock, cash, and travel to school financial aid officers.

Johns Hopkins has abolished its recommended lender list. The parent company of Student Loan Express, CIT Group, has placed a trio of executives on leave and made a $3 million contribution to a national fund for educating high school students and their families about the financial aid process. Until last month, Frishberg sat on the federal Education Department's Negotiated Rulemaking Committee on Student Loans. Education Secretary Margaret Spellings asked her to resign the post last month