Education Department Official To Resign And Call For Student Loan Forgiveness

The federal student loan system is "fundamentally broken," A. Wayne Johnson said.

A top Education Department official will resign on Thursday and throw his support behind widespread student loan forgiveness, he told The Wall Street Journal.

The official, A. Wayne Johnson, was appointed chief operating officer of Federal Student Aid in 2017 by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, who called him “the right person to modernize the FSA.”

“He actually wrote the book on student loan debt,” DeVos said at the time. Johnson later shifted into another role as chief strategy and transformation officer but still focused on student aid.

Now, more than two years later, he believes the student loan system is “fundamentally broken,” according to the WSJ. Johnson, who plans a long-shot bid for the Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), thinks the federal government should not be involved in student lending at all.

“We run through the process of putting this debt burden on somebody ... but it rides on their credit files — it rides on their back — for decades,” he told the newspaper. “The time has come for us to end and stop the insanity.”

Johnson said he would like to see up to $50,000 forgiven for anyone with federal student loan debt. Americans are currently trying to pay back a collective $1.5 trillion in student debt. 

The prospect of loan forgiveness has been a popular subject on the campaign trail for 2020 Democratic presidential candidates after Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) popularized the idea during his 2016 campaign.

But under Sanders’ plan, the government would become more involved with the cost of education: After wiping out all of the outstanding debt, the government would make public college free to attend and offer federal student loans at a much lower interest rate. 

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) is pitching a similar plan, but one that would forgive a smaller proportion of loans for wealthier borrowers and not forgive loans taken out by the wealthiest ― people who make more than $250,000. 

Other Democratic contenders ― including South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who has six-figure debt himself ― have put forth more limited plans for debt forgiveness and proposals to make public college more affordable in general.