Last month James Runcie resigned from his post as Chief Operating Officer of the Federal Student Aid office in the Department of Education. This week, the department announced Secretary DeVos’s pick for his replacement: Arthur Wayne Johnson.
Johnson is the CEO of a private student loan company, though the department’s statement emphasizes his credentials rather than his current posting. Though critics are worried about his history in the private sector, Secretary DeVos believes he is “the right person to modernize FSA for the 21st Century.”
With a portfolio of $1.4 trillion, the Federal Student Aid office needs someone with vast knowledge of student loan debt. Secretary DeVos touts Johnson as a good fit, saying “he actually wrote the book on student loan debt and will bring a unique combination of CEO-level operating skills and an in-depth understanding of the needs and issues associated with student loan borrowers and their families.”
Johnson’s history is mostly made up of positions in the financial industry, but he recently decided to transition to an education leadership role as superintendent of the Hamilton county public school system. To prepare for the transition, Johnson took an online doctoral program where he wrote “the book” Secretary DeVos praised: a dissertation focusing on the decision-making process students go through for taking out student loans.
Secretary DeVos reiterates the department’s focus on serving students and protecting taxpayers. According to the Department of Education’s statement, Secretary DeVos charged Johnson with “executing her vision to simplify and modernize the federal student aid process, treat students as valued customers who are afforded protections and respect they deserve and ensure Federal tax dollars are spent wisely.”
James Runcie’s sudden resignation last month brought to light the relationship between the FSA and the Department of Education. Runcie described a misalignment of mission within the department and cited broader issues, such as the department diverting resources from the FSA.
Rep Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., chairwoman of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, said the committee has raised concerns over mismanagement of the FSA and hopes that Johnson “can work with Secretary DeVos to bring accountability and leadership to the office.”
“I have a profound appreciation for and recognition of the critical role FSA plays in advancing educational attainment by students in our nation’s institutions of higher education,” said Johnson. “It is with a deep and sincere commitment to the millions of current and future Federal Student Aid clients that I look forward to accepting responsibility and accountability for the policies, actions and practices of FSA.”
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