James Runcie, who resigned from his position at the Department of Education, speaking at an unspecified hearing.
James Runcie, the Department of Education’s top student financial aid officer, has resigned according to a press release from the Education Department.
While he was going to fulfill his five-year tenure to its end in 2020, sources revealed that issues with the Trump administration made Runcie decide to retire early. The decision also followed his refusal to honor a request from Betsy DeVos to testify about the handling of irregular financial aid payments.
Before he left, Runcie sent out an email to staff warning them about issues with management that he foresees within the Department of Education.
Runcie’s email highlighted why he didn’t think there was a “single compelling reason” why he should testify. He went on to express his concern about department’s ability to make timely and effective decisions in regards to several issues in recent news.
These issues involved a number of important projects in the works, including the single student loan servicing contract, expanding the Pell Grant program, and making sure the data retrieval tool is back up and running for students who are applying for financial aid.
To be fair, the Office of Financial Aid has had its share of critics during Runcie's tenure. The student loan default rate and volume of loan servicing complaints increased substantially during his tenure, and many critics worried that the department didn’t have the expertise to analyze student loan data effectively.
Runcie, one of the last appointees from the Obama administration, was named chief operating officer of the Office of Federal Student Aid in 2011 and again in 2015. The office provides more than $150 billion in federal grants, loans, and work-study funds to college students.
For the time being, deputy chief operating officer Matthew Sessa will assume Runcie’s duties.
The developments involving the ex-financial aid officer, Runcie, follow a slew of criticisms aimed at Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and the current direction of the Department of Education.
In the past, Secretary DeVos' ties to the for-profit industry and private sector have been called into question. These questions led to more controversy when the Secretary of Education rolled back protections for student borrowers who are late on payments.
These concerns were eagerly voiced by politicians and student borrowers alike:
In a survey covered by The Student Loan Report, a considerable portion, 42 percent, believe that Betsy DeVos will have a negative effect on the student loan situation.
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