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2 More Aid Directors Fall

May 22, 2007

The financial aid directors at Columbia and Johns Hopkins Universities have lost their jobs, the second and third casualties of the student loan controversy that has battered higher education.

In a terse statement e-mailed to reporters late Monday afternoon, Columbia announced that it had dismissed David Charlow, its executive director of financial aid and senior associate dean of student affairs, six weeks after it suspended him amid charges that he had owned stock in Student Loan Xpress, a loan company that appeared on a list of preferred lenders to which Columbia had referred students for loans. The charges, which emerged from the investigation sparked by New York Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo, were first revealed by the New America Foundation.

Columbia's statement Monday read in full: "Last month, Columbia promptly brought information received about David Charlow's relationship with former preferred lender Student Loan Xpress to the Attorney General's attention and suspended Mr. Charlow from any engagement in the affairs of the University. As of today, Mr. Charlow has now been dismissed from his employment at Columbia College. We have been working cooperatively with the Attorney General's office to provide documents and materials related to Mr. Charlow's tenure as the head of financial aid for the undergraduate College and the School of Engineering and Applied Science. As these matters are now appropriately in the hands of the Attorney General, we cannot comment further on Mr. Charlow at this time."

In a news release posted on its Web site, Johns Hopkins announced that Ellen J. Frishberg, director of student financial services at its main campus, had resigned Friday, effective immediately. Hopkins said that its officials had been unaware that Frishberg had received about $65,000 in consulting fees and payments toward her graduate education from Student Loan Xpress, to which the university referred students, and that Frishberg's failure to disclose the payments, "along with her acceptance of tuition payments, was inconsistent with the university's ethics and conflict of interest policies."

The Johns Hopkins statement said that an internal review had also found that Frishberg had "performed paid consulting work" for another lender, American Express, which it also recommended to students, work that the university said Frishberg also did not disclose. The university said it had approved of one other consulting relationship that Frishberg had with a lender that did not appear on one of the institution's preferred lender lists.

Hopkins officials also said that its inquiry had "found no evidence that any student or parent borrower was harmed financially because of any arrangement between Frishberg and a lender," and announced that the university had canceled all its lists of suggested lenders until "there is a national consensus on standards for lists that are free of conflict of interest and serve the best interests of students." Various higher education groups and the Education Department are working to develop guidelines for such lists.

A statement released by lawyers for Frishberg said she "never intended to do anything that would be perceived as harmful to either Johns Hopkins University, its students or their parents, and has always acted in good faith." Frishberg, who headed the university's financial aid operations since 1989, was a leader in national financial aid circles.

The dismissal of Charlow and the resignation of Frishberg follow by several days the University of Texas at Austin's announcement last week that it had fired its top financial aid official for his ownership of Student Loan Xpress stock.

 

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