As the Trump administration and the Department of Education continue to hire staff, many student loan questions remain in limbo. Both Trump and DeVos have plans to roll back important student loan protections, from Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) to protections against for-profit colleges; however, staff for DeVos’ Department of Education must be hired first. Recently, DeVos made a hire that may reveal her plans for student loans and college students as a whole.
After James Runcie resigned from the position, due to DeVos forcing him to testify before Congress, A. Wayne Johnson was tapped to become Chief Operating Officer of Federal Student Aid. According to a statement from the Department of Education, Johnson was the “Founder, Chairman and former CEO” of a payments technology company called First Performance Corporation. DeVos has also said that he “wrote the book on student loan debt.”
The one thing that both DeVos and the Department of Education have failed to mention is that Johnson is currently the CEO of a private loan company called Reunion Student Loan Services. A company spokesperson says that Johnson will resign his position with the company, but this background could still change the way student loans are handled, and be concerning for borrowers.
As most private loan companies do not offer the repayment options, such as income-based loan repayment, that the government offers, Johnson and the FSA could start moving toward getting rid of these programs. At this time we do not know how Johnson will operate within the Department of Education, but his policy proposals should be something to keep an eye on.
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Equal Justice Works provides support to public interest attorneys, and helps law students learn more about all aspects of managing their student debt. We have a debt relief newsletter, free student debt webinars, an informative website, and a free student debt e-book, Take Control of Your Future.
Brandon Hanson is the Student Debt Specialist at Equal Justice Works, where he helps students, lawyers, and law school professionals manage their student debt through education, outreach, and policy analysis. Brandon is a graduate of the University of St. Thomas School of Law in Minneapolis and the University of Iowa, and has worked with political campaigns, non-profit organizations, and state government.