DeVos picks CEO of for-profit lender to run federal student loan system

Greg Nash

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’s pick to lead the department’s $1.3 trillion student loan system is the CEO of a private student loan company.

A. Wayne Johnson, who was tapped as chief operating officer of Federal Student Aid (FSA), is the founder and chief executive of Reunion Financial Services, a company that originates and refinances student loans.

That credential is notably absent from the Education Department’s release on Tuesday announcing Johnson’s appointment.


That announcement points to Johnson’s credentials as “a highly regarded leader with more than 30 years of experience in the financial services industry and holds a Ph.D. in higher education leadership.”

Johnson’s dissertation, cited by DeVos, focused on students’ decision-making process for taking out loans.

“Wayne is the right person to modernize FSA for the 21st Century,” DeVos said in the statement. “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.”

Johnson will be appointed to take the place of James Runcie, who abruptly resigned last month over a dispute with DeVos.

Just before he stepped down, the former student aid COO refused to testify before the House Oversight Committee about the agency’s rising levels of improper payments for federal student aid programs.

“I cannot in good conscience continue to be accountable as Chief Operating Officer given the risk associated with the current environment at the Department,” Runcie wrote in a memo obtained by BuzzFeed News.

Tags Betsy DeVos Department of Education James Runcie Wayne Johnson

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