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Department of Education Violated Legal Requirement to Have a Performance Agreement for the Federal Student Aid Chief

WASHINGTON, DC – Responding to a lawsuit filed in federal court, the Department of Education acknowledged that the Chief Operating Officer (COO) of Federal Student Aid (FSA) did not have a statutorily-required performance agreement in place until last month. Student Defense and American Oversight filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit in August after the Department ignored an initial public records request, and the revelation in a court filing yesterday shed light on the operations of the federal office that oversees $1.5 trillion in student loans.

“FSA’s Chief Operating Officer has been managing a trillion-dollar portfolio on behalf of taxpayers since 2019 and yet it seems the Department only got around to giving him a performance agreement a month ago, after we filed a lawsuit they couldn’t ignore,” said Student Defense External Affairs Director Sam Gilford. “This is business as usual for this Department of Education, which has routinely ignored the law in repealing regulations it doesn’t like, and in running roughshod over student borrowers who don’t have lobbyists.”

During the COO’s tenure, FSA has been plagued by serious allegations of mismanagement and has admitted to illegally garnishing the wages of thousands of student loan borrowers, in violation of the CARES Act. FSA’s poor performance has led to significant harm to students as well as a federal judge finding DeVos in contempt for violating a court order.

The Higher Education Act requires the Secretary of Education and the Chief Operating Officer of FSA to enter into an annual performance agreement “that shall set forth measurable organizational and individual goals for the Chief Operating Officer." The law requires the performance agreement to be made publicly available, and while the Department’s website does have the performance agreements for prior fiscal years, no such update has been posted since Secretary DeVos took charge.

The complaint filed in August 2020 is available here.