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State student loan agency to open call center in Green Tree

| Wednesday, June 5, 2013, 11:30 p.m.

A state agency that underwrites Pennsylvania's college grant program and keeps tabs on more than $200 billion in student loans nationwide will open a loan service call center in Green Tree later this year.

A spokesman for the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency said the call center will employ 150 workers who counsel borrowers on student loan payment plans.

State and county officials will join state Sen. Wayne Fontana, D-Brookline, the agency's vice chairman, at 11 a.m. Friday for the official announcement at 11 Parkway Center in Green Tree, said agency spokesman Keith New.

Fontana said PHEAA, which has offices in Dauphin, Cumberland, Centre and Delaware counties, decided to expand to Western Pennsylvania when it became apparent it would need additional facilities to handle its growing student loan servicing business.

It settled on the Parkway Center facility — located in Fontana's Senate district — having rated various sites in the region on criteria such as access to transportation, parking and distance from major population centers, the senator said.

“It is good news for our region, and it is good news for PHEAA because it shows how well it's been doing,” Fontana said. He said profits from the agency's operations will fund the center.

“There's no state tax money in this,” Fontana said. He said jobs at the center will pay in the range of $11 an hour.

New said the agency is planning a job fair to find new employees.

“It sounds like a big project. We certainly welcome them,” said Green Tree Mayor C.F. Hammer.

PHEAA, a nonprofit founded 50 years ago to issue and insure federally guaranteed student loans for Pennsylvania students, lost a major line of business when the federal government decided in 2009 that the Department of Education would issue student loans. But it rebounded in 2010 when it won a major contract with the federal government to pursue repayment of student debt.

The agency's loan portfolio has grown based on a formula the federal government uses to award additional work to contractors based on their performance, New said.

He said the agency employs nearly 3,000 workers at four sites.

Debra Erdley is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-320-7996 or derdley@tribweb.com.

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