E-mails sought in Sallie Mae probe

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MARK AUSTIN THOMAS: The scandal involving the Department of Education and the $85 billion student loan industry continues to brew in Washington, D.C. At issue is whether college loan officers were given financial perks in exchange for steering students to a particular lender — and what the department did or didn't do about it.

The latest twist: Congress wants all e-mails related to the department's handling of the matter. Jeremy Hobson has more from Washington.


JEREMY HOBSON: Rep. George Miller, who chairs the House Education Committee, isn't at the point of calling for Education Secretary Margaret Spelling's resignation. But he says he's deeply concerned about the stewardship of the student loan program.

REP. GEORGE MILLER: My concern is that information was available, corrections could have been made. This has been very costly to students and their families — and I need to have that information before we can proceed.

This comes on the heels of a Washington Post report that says in 2001, the Bush administration scrapped a Clinton administration plan that would have tried to deal with conflicts of interest between lenders and college officials.

But all of this points to a bigger issue, says Patrick Callan of the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education.

PATRICK CALLAN: You wouldn't have this level of abuse if there wasn't this level of borrowing. And you wouldn't have this level of borrowing if you didn't have the cost of going to college having escalated so fast in the past couple of decades.

As for Secretary Spellings, she'll have her say next week, when she testifies before Congress.

In Washington, I'm Jeremy Hobson for Marketplace.

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