James Runcie, the Federal Student Aid chief, quit his job unannounced Tuesday night, and left an email for his staff explaining his reasoning. Among other things, it sounds as though Runcie did not want to be the department’s fall guy in a hearing before the House Oversight Committee.
Highlights from my post on The Root:
Runcie was an Obama administration holdover who was first appointed in 2011, and then reappointed in 2015 for a five-year term that would have ended in 2020. The Washington Post reports that Runcie planned to retire at the end of the year, but clashes with the current administration forced his hand.
The Post reports that Runcie did not respond to their request for comment, but Education Department spokeswoman Liz Hill said Runcie refused Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’s request that he testify before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on Thursday about the department’s handling of improper financial aid payments.
“Congress requested Mr. Runcie to testify and Mr. Runcie refused to appear. The Secretary directed Mr. Runcie to comply with the request of Congress and to answer questions regarding oversight within FSA and repeated issues concerning improper payments,” Hill said, in an email. “He chose to resign rather than face Congress.”
Runcie detailed his reasoning in his email to his staff, a lot of which I share on The Root, but the gist of it is this snippet from the Washington Post:
Senior officials within FSA, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly, said Runcie’s departure left many in the financial aid office befuddled and, in some cases, in tears. One 25-year veteran of the department said Runcie had the respect of leaders in the office because of his dedication to a difficult job, but Runcie refused to be “thrown to the wolves” at the hearing.
And as I said on The Root:
I’m not mad at James Runcie. Student financial aid is a mess right now, and all the news coming out about the mishandling of student loans by such servicers as Sallie Mae/Navient doesn’t make them look any better.
I wouldn’t let them throw me under the bus for all their nonsense either.
The thing is though, and I am not by any means defending Betsy DeVos, but she inherited a lot of this mess when she got her position. The problems with Pell Grants and student loans predate her, so what was Runcie doing under the Obama administration?
Read more at The Root