With consumer demand weak for credit cards and fewer competitors in the private student loan market, Discover Financial Services is making a bid to become a big lender on campuses.

The Riverwoods, Ill., company's student loan portfolio more than tripled in its fiscal first quarter ended Feb. 28 from a year earlier, to $2.8 billion. Meanwhile, credit card loans — Discover's flagship product — shrank 6%, to $45.8 billion. David Nelms, its chairman and chief executive, told investors this week that he expects credit card loans to continue to shrink this year.

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