But the Department of Education hacks who oversee the student loan program have been paying themselves performance bonuses. James Runcie, Chief Operating Officer for DOE's student loan program, received $433,000 in bonuses; and then he resigned rather than testify before the House Oversight Committee about what the heck was going on in the student loan program.
And Runcie was not the only DOE executive to get bonuses. The National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA) released a report earlier this month that provides some useful information about how DOE's bonus program works.
As the NASFAA report explains, the Federal Student Aid Office (FSA) set performance goals for the organization and then basically assessed itself with regard to whether the office met those goals. According to NASFAA, "self-assessments are a common way to begin performance evaluations, but they are usually signed off on by a person or board with oversight responsibility." The Federal Student Aid office, however, let its own evaluations stand "without pushback, oversight, or accountability, which often easily allows the organization to excuse away failure to meet goals and targets."
FSA's self-assessment program permitted senior executives to get bonuses if they excelled at their work. The program identified three categories of performance: "exceptional," "high results," or "results achieved." Note that there was not even a category for poor performance.
Senior people who scored "exceptional" or "high results" were eligible for bonuses; and not surprisingly, performance scores got higher and higher as the years went by. In FY 11, "66 percent of senior FSA leaders received an "exceptional" or "high results" performance rating that qualified them for bonuses. In FY 2015, 90 percent of senior administrators got those ratings.
Correspondingly, the percentage of eligible employees who only scored "results achieved," making them ineligible for bonuses, decreased from 34 percent to only 10 percent between FY 2011 and FY 2015.
Bottom line is this: In FY 2015, 89.8 percent of FSA senior administrators ranked high enough to get a cash bonus, and 89.8 percent of those administrators got cash bonuses. How big were the bonuses? I haven't seen a list showing bonus amounts and who got them. Huffington Post reported that that at least one bonus was $75,000.
No wonder Mr. Runcie resigned rather than answer questions before the House Oversight Committee. "I cannot in good conscience continue to be accountable as Chief Operating officer given the risk associated with the current environment at the Education Department," he is quoted as saying.
What the hell does that mean? I have no idea. It must be one of those phrases Mr. Runcie learned when he was getting his MBA at Harvard.
|James Runcie testifying about the student loan program|
Danielle Douglas-Gabriel. It's time to reform the financial arm of the Education Department, report says. Washington Post, May 16, 2017.
Adam Harris. Top Federal Student-Aid Official Resigns Over Congressional Testimony. Chronicle of Higher Education, May 24, 2017.
Shahien Nasiripour. Education Department Secretly Reappoints Top Official Accused of Harming Students. Huffington Post, May 7, 2016.
The Wrong Move on Student Loans. New York Times, April 6, 2017.