Federal Student Aid Office Calls Failure A Success -- And Hands Out Big Bonuses

"In 1998, the Republican-led Congress and President Bill Clinton's Democratic administration decided to give the U.S. Department of Education's financial aid office more freedom to run the student loan program in exchange for it committing to measurable goals. It may have been a huge mistake," according to The Huffington Post.

"That's the takeaway from a congressional hearing Wednesday that featured blistering criticism from government watchdogs, House Republicans and higher education experts directed at the Office of Federal Student Aid and its chief, James Runcie, for what they described as sloppy oversight of loan contractors and for-profit colleges, inconsistent and poor communication to schools, and an agency culture that chafes at criticism and oversight and seemingly rewards failure. ...

Justin Draeger, president of the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators, said the agency needs 'cultural changes.' Outgoing Education Secretary Arne Duncan appointed Runcie to lead FSA. ...

The problem, experts say, is that FSA largely sets its own goals and defines success without considering the views of others.

Take how it judges progress toward reducing distress among student debtors. Last year, in its annual report to Congress, FSA said 8.1 percent of borrowers were at least 90 days late on their student loans. This year, it was 9.8 percent. But FSA changed how it calculated the delinquency metric, and revised up the 2014 figure to 9.9 percent, allowing it to claim success this year. FSA said the new metric was a 'better measure.'

'The problem with self-assessment is even when the department fails they deem it a success,' Draeger said."

NASFAA's "Headlines" section highlights media coverage of financial aid to help members stay up to date with the latest news. Inclusion in Today's News does not imply endorsement of the material or guarantee the accuracy of information presented.


Publication Date: 11/20/2015

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