If Dr. A. Wayne Johnson’s hiring as the Federal Student Aid office’s chief was surprising in 2017, the nature of his departure could be called a stunner.
Johnson, a student loan company CEO before joining the current administration, told The Wall Street Journal on Thursday that he planned to resign — and that he endorses broad student loan forgiveness. Johnson said he came to that conclusion as part of a wider belief that the government should remove itself from lending education debt altogether.
“We run through the process of putting this debt burden on somebody … but it rides on their credit files — it rides on their back — for decades,” he said. “The time has come for us to end and stop the insanity.”
Just last week, Johnson’s boss, Education Department Secretary Betsy DeVos, employed the word “crazy” when asked by Fox News about mass forgiveness proposals.
Johnson’s unexpected support for mass forgiveness may fit in with his plan to seek federal office, representing his native Georgia. According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Johnson hopes to be appointed to a soon-to-be-vacated U.S. Senate seat, but may contest a special election next year if he isn’t chosen to fill the office by the state’s governor.
While Johnson is a Republican, his thoughts on loan forgiveness resemble some of those proposed by Democratic presidential candidates.
According to his plan, Johnson aims forgive up to $50,000 for each federal loan borrower, leaving 37 million of them debt-free. He also supports a maximum $50,000 tax credit to anyone who already repaid their federal loans, so that no-longer-indebted borrowers receive help as well.
Johnson said he would cover the estimated $925 billion cost of his plan with a 1% tax on corporate earnings.
As for the fate of future students, Johnson said he was also looking at the possibility of tuition-free college. In particular, he favors the idea of a $50,000 government voucher that would help anyone finance their way through a university or graduate school.