Thursday, May 31, 2007

"No Longer Fun And Games"

Former financial aid director at Johns Hopkins University, Ellen Frishberg, accepted more than $133,695 from 8 different student loan companies over 10 years while at the same time advising the federal government on rules for officials dealing with the student loan industry, lecturing peers on the need to avoid perceived conflicts of interest and providing "impartial" student loan advice to students in financial aid matters.

The Washington Post has some details:

The portrait of Frishberg that emerges -- a savvy businesswoman who worked at home as a $200-an-hour consultant and accepted free tickets from lenders to black-tie galas -- contrasts with her public profile as a loan company critic and student advocate. Lawmakers and consumer advocates say her case illustrates a troubling overlap between the $85 billion-a-year student loan industry and some university financial aid officials whom students have relied on for impartial guidance.


As Congress and the New York attorney general began to crack down on the industry this year, Frishberg privately lamented the new scrutiny of ties between lenders and university officials.

"This is no longer the fun and games we have come to know and love," Frishberg wrote in a March e-mail to executives at Campus Direct, a lender that paid her more than $13,000.

Frishberg's superiors at Johns Hopkins approved of her consulting work with the student loan companies while also working as a financial aid officer for the university:

"Sounds like a win-win for you and Hopkins," William Conley, dean of enrollment and academic services, wrote in a 2006 e-mail to Frishberg after a university attorney reviewed her $3,000 contract with Student Loan Processors Inc.

She took the most money from Student Loan Xpress - over $62,870 since 2002.

The system is rotten to the core when the financial aid officer of a major university receives the approval of her superiors to accept money from student loan companies while simultaneously advising students on student loan issues and lecturing the industry against perceived conflcicts of interest.

Of course, Ms. Frishberg saw it all as "fun and games."

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