November 14, 2019

Senator Warren and Majority Whip Clyburn Question DeVos Over Resignation of Top Student Loan Advisor

In Sharp Rebuke, Former Top Education Department Official Said Over 40% of Student Loan Debt Will Likely Never Be Repaid and Broke with DeVos and Trump Administration by Proposing Student Debt Cancellation

Warren-Clyburn Bill Would Cancel Student Loan Debt for Millions of Americans and End the Student Debt Crisis

Text of Letter (PDF)

Washington, D.C. - United States Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn (D-S.C.) sent a letter to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and Office of Federal Student Aid (FSA) Chief Operating Officer Major General Mark Brown, U.S. Air Force, Retired, regarding the recent resignation of Dr. A. Wayne Johnson, the former Chief Strategy and Transformation Officer and Chief Operating Officer of FSA at the U.S. Department of Education. The lawmakers seek information related to Dr. Johnson's recent public statements and assessment that "much of the debt will likely never be repaid" and that the federal student loan system is "fundamentally broken."

In their letter, the lawmakers highlighted the discrepancy between Dr. Johnson's new position on student loan debt and that of Secretary DeVos, noting that Secretary DeVos has been a vocal opponent of any proposals to cancel student debt and has described them as "crazy." 

"The public conclusions of Dr. Johnson, a top federal student loan official in the Trump administration until he resigned, represent a stunning departure from the policies of this administration," the lawmakers wrote. "This sudden shift in policy position raises serious questions for lawmakers, borrowers, and the public as to what informed this change, what other Department officials are aware of this information, and how this information informs ongoing work at the Department after Dr. Johnson's departure."

To better inform their policymaking and the public, the lawmakers asked Secretary DeVos and General Brown to answer a series of questions regarding Dr. Johnson's change in policy position, and specifically, to provide any additional data or information that was available to Dr. Johnson that led him to conclude that over 40% of borrowers may never repay their debt. The lawmakers requested a response by November 26, 2019.

In July, Senator Warren and Whip Clyburn introduced the Student Loan Debt Relief Act, legislation to eliminate up to $50,000 in student loan debt for 42 million Americans-providing debt relief to 95% of student borrowers, including cancelling student debt entirely for 75% of borrowers. This bicameral legislation would end the student debt crisis, help millions of struggling families obtain financial stability, and take meaningful steps to begin to close the racial wealth gap.

In October, the lawmakers discussed their legislation at a town hall on the campus of South Carolina State University, a public, historically black college and university. More information about the legislation is available here, and a full video of the town hall can be found here.