WASHINGTON - The banking industry took another modest step toward salvaging the guaranteed student loan program when a Senate panel voted to limit the federal government to half the market untit at least 1998.

Only 24 hours earlier, the Labor and Human Resources Committee appeared to have settled on a compromise that would have permitted the government to take 100% of the market in 1997.

The bill reported out by the committee also modified a proposed presidential study, commission requiring that it include members of both political parties.

"Getting the 50% [market share] limit was important," said Joe Belew, president of the Consumer Bankers Association. "It's important that direct lending not be treated as a foregone conclusion.

"We also got a commission that is less stacked against us."

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