The Obama administration says it can save more than $4 billion a year by expelling middlemen and private profits from the taxpayer-funded student-loan business.

The plan passed the U.S. House last year. But it needs "reasonable modifications" in the Senate to "guard against job loss in Delaware," Tom Carper and Edward "Ted" Kaufman, Delaware's Democratic senators, warned Senate Banking Committee leaders in a letter last Friday.

The senators went to bat for SLM Corp. (Sallie Mae), the giant of the student-loan business, and Access Group, a nonprofit lender to law students. Sallie Mae employs 700 at its new call center south of Wilmington; Access employs 400 at its office north of the city.

Carper and Kaufman want whatever bill passes the Senate to ensure that Access can still "service

student loans from their member schools," and Sallie Mae can "maintain a role" in student lending.

The move by the Delaware senators follows earlier appeals by Pennsylvania Democrats such as Sen. Bob Casey and Rep. Paul Kanjorski to go easy on Sallie Mae after it opened a loan service center and hired hundreds in Kanjorski's district.

Factory sale

Want to buy a used assembly line?

The University of Delaware "will host an auction of assets of the former Newark Chrysler automotive fabrication, assembly plant and distribution center," tomorrow at 10 a.m. at UD's Clayton Hall.

The plant, on nearby South College Avenue, is open for inspection of the merchandise, starting at 9.

UD bought the 272-acre site for $24 million last year after Chrysler closed the plant, and the school plans to expand its engineering, technology and research programs there.

What's for sale? "Press brakes, shears, vertical milling machines, lathes, saws, tool-room equipment, drills, welding & cutting equipment, compressors, heating & cooling equipment, vehicle lifts, warehouse equipment, pallet racking & distribution equipment and much more," says auctioneer Great American Corp.

Perfect for the budding small manufacturer, or anyone betting exports will recover as the dollar drops.

Hoop dreams

Lots of suburban parents burn hours coaching and transporting their little athletes.

Frank Gaitley and Mary Mengel put that time to work hatching a business plan.

With help from the federal stimulus program, the result is their 50,000-square-foot Competitive Edge Sports gym complex, scheduled to open Sunday in King of Prussia, at 320 S. Henderson Rd., site of the former Tweeter/Bryn Mawr Stereo warehouse. The two partners are leasing it from Rich Caruso's and Jerry Holtz's Provco Realty.

Gaitley and Mengel met while their sons were playing Catholic Youth Organization basketball against each other out in Montgomery County (they're now playing together for Episcopal Academy).

The pair were a couple of roundball jocks: Gaitley played at Haverford High and Albright, and was assistant to his wife, Stephanie, when she coached the University of Richmond and St. Joseph's University women's teams.

Mengel played at Allentown Central Catholic and Lehigh. She's now the owner of WeeCare Day Care, of Sanatoga.

"I handle the basketball end, she handles the business end," Gaitley told me. Mengel handled the loan negotiations and the long Small Business Administration process, among other duties.

The pair and their small staff plan open-gym hours next month on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from 6 to 10 p.m. Fees are $10 a day, or $80 a year. They're renting space to corporate and youth leagues, and plan to expand open hours in the summer.

The project is financed by a $400,000 SBA loan at 6 percent, says John F. Fleming, lead business-development specialist at SBA's King of Prussia office.

Fees totaling $12,000 were waived under last year's American Recovery Act. Why? Because risk-averse "private lenders are staying away from lending to entertainment, sports and restaurant" projects, these days, Fleming told me.