The Trump Administration is considering moving oversight for more than $1 trillion in student loan debt from the Department of Education (ED), where it currently resides, to the Treasury Department, The New York Times reports.
The possible change was referenced in the resignation memo of James Runcie, which The Times obtained. Runcie led the ED’s federal student aid program, and resigned suddenly Tuesday night, citing the proposed change to student aid oversight and other issues.
Runcie wrote a scathing memo to colleagues highlighting his dissatisfaction with the way his office was micromanaged, Politico reported. “I am incredibly concerned about significant constraints being placed on our ability to allocate and prioritize resources, make decisions, and deliver on the organization’s mission,” Runcie wrote in the memo, according to Politico.
The proposed move would significantly blunt the ED’s power. The department, which advises and executes legislation over education policy at both the K-12 and post-secondary level, has limited power, as many areas of education in the US are largely under state and local control.
One of its largest areas of responsibilities pertains to administering federal student aid. The Pell Grant program — student aid that does not need to be repaid — was the largest area of spending for the department for 2016 with about $22.5 billion spent.
Some worry that the change would not only significantly diminish the ED’s power, but also usurp the original intent of the student loan program.
“The reason the federal student aid programs live within the Education Department is because that’s the agency that has as its goal increasing educational opportunities within the United States,” David Bergeron told The Times. “That is not the Treasury Department’s goal. Its job is to pay for the business of the government,” Bergeron, who worked in the ED for 35 year, continued.
The role of the ED has previously been called into question by the President Trump. During his campaign, he hinted that the department should be abolished.
And in his book “Great Again: How to Fix Our Crippled America,” Trump writes: “A lot of people believe the Department of Education should just be eliminated. Get rid of it. If we don’t eliminate it completely, we certainly need to cut its power and reach.”