Secretary DeVos, seen here at CPAC 2017, has tabbed Dr. A. Wayne Johnson to head Federal Student Aid.

Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos’ announced her intent to appoint Dr. A. Wayne Johnson as Chief Operating Officer (COO) of Federal Student Aid (FSA) yesterday, June 20. Interestingly enough, she failed to mention he is currently the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of a private student loan company.

The announcement follows on the heels of previous FSA Officer James Runcie’s resignation, who suddenly stepped down last month after refusing to testify in front of an oversight committee.

After hearing the announcement, Buzzfeed reached out to a company representative at Reunion Student Loan Services and confirmed Johnson is the acting CEO.

Furthermore, Reunion’s website has Johnson listed as the CEO, as does a copy of his resume that was sent to the officials at Hamilton County school district, where Johnson was a superintendent candidate.

Reunion Student Loan Services originates and services private student loans in addition to offering refinancing and consolidation for existing loans as a subset of Reunion Financial Services Corporation. Dr. Wayne is listed as one of the founding members, starting the company in 2012.

The Reunion representative that confirmed Johnson’s position as CEO told Buzzfeed that Johnson “of course plans to resign” if he is confirmed as the COO of FSA.

The Department of Education has yet to respond with a comment regarding Johnson’s employment at Reunion Student Loan Services, but they did happen to expand on the decision for the appointment.

In the Education Department’s statement, Dr. Johnson was described as “a highly regarded leader with more than 30 years experience in the financial services industry and holds a Ph.D. in higher education leadership.”

Secretary DeVos will task Johnson with executing her mission to simplify and modernize the federal student aid process, treat students as valued, respected customers, and ensure federal tax dollars are spent wisely.

"Wayne is the right person to modernize FSA for the 21st Century,” said Secretary DeVos. “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. He will be a tremendous asset to the Department as we move forward with a focus on how best to serve students and protect taxpayers."

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Dr. Johnson, who comes from a long background in the payments industry, was the founder of First Performance Corporation, a payments technology business. His Ph.D. dissertation paper was centered around how students decide to borrow money to fund their educations.

“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 Dr. 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.”

Federal Student Aid currently serves more than 42 million student loan borrowers and handles more than $1.41 trillion in current outstanding student loan debt. At any rate, a positive change in leadership would of course mean positive changes in the student loan issue, but it remains to be seen whether the situation will pan out as expected.

So far, there hasn’t been much criticism of the pending appointment, but one could assume that will change quickly. Secretary Betsy DeVos has been under plenty of scrutiny lately, most recently through Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s DeVos Watch initiative.

On top of this, Sec. DeVos has been the subject of controversy given her ties to the private market in financial aid as well as for-profit college. Given Dr. Wayne’s status as a CEO or a company that offers private student loan services, it would be an easy prediction to say that this appointment will generate similar controversy. At any rate, only time will tell how the public as well as Congress will react.

Image Copyright © Michael Vadon