The federal official in charge of the nation’s $1.6 trillion student loan portfolio has resigned following weeks of pressure from progressives, clearing the way for the Biden administration to install a new person to oversee the management of student loans and regulation of colleges.
The Education Department announced on Friday that Mark A. Brown, the head of federal student aid, had stepped down. Brown was appointed to the role by former Education Secretary Betsy DeVos for a three-year term that had been set to end in March 2022.
“I accepted the resignation of Federal Student Aid Chief Operating Officer Gen. Mark Brown and thanked him for his service to the U.S. Department of Education,” Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said in a statement.
The student aid office oversees the federal government’s vast lending operations, disbursing Pell grants and loans to students and hiring the student loan servicing and debt collection companies that interact directly with the nation’s 45 million student loan borrowers. The unit also regulates colleges and universities that receive federal funding.
Cardona said that the office would “renew its focus on streamlining access to and management of federal financial aid, easing the burden of student debt, and carefully stewarding taxpayer dollars.”
Robin Minor, the deputy chief operating officer, will serve as the acting head of Federal Student Aid while the Biden administration searches for a permanent replacement.
The resignation comes after progressive, consumer and labor groups had pushed for Brown to step aside, citing their concerns with keeping a DeVos appointee in the role.
“Whether it was incompetence, malice, or a mix of both, the Department of Education’s student loan bank under Betsy DeVos was a disaster and oversaw the illegal garnishment of the wages of thousands of struggling borrowers during the pandemic,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) said earlier this year. “Students deserve leadership at this office who will follow the law and make this program work for students.”
Brown, in a video message to staff on Friday morning, touted accomplishments during his tenure and defended the office’s work under his leadership.
“Don’t ever let anybody misrepresent your history,” he said in the message to the office’s roughly 1,300 employees. “You have exceeded expectations in virtually every measurable way.”
“I know that with a mission so important, you did not have the luxury of opining from the sidelines or offering opinion only when it is politically convenient to do so,” Brown added. He did not immediately respond to a request for comment.