WSJ: DOE official who oversaw student loans to run for Senate

A top Education Department official who oversaw student loans said he is resigning and will seek a soon-to-be vacant Senate seat, running on a plan to cancel student loans, The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday.

A. Wayne Johnson had served as “chief strategy and transformation officer, leading a revamp of how the agency deals with borrowers and the companies that service the debt,” the Journal reported. Prior to holding that position, Johnson, who was first appointed to the department in 2017 by Secretary Betsy DeVos, served as chief operating officer of the Office of Federal Student Aid, where he oversaw $1.5 trillion in student loans, according to the paper.

Johnson is planning to run for the Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Johnny Isakson, a Georgia Republican who announced in August that he would step down at the end of the year, citing health concerns, the Journal said. The former official has never run for public office before, and although he has voted in both Republican and Democratic primaries, he plans to run as a Republican, according to the newspaper.

Johnson told the newspaper that he took up the position of forgiving student loans after he got a firsthand look at the problem through his role at the department. As part of his campaign, the Journal said, Johnson has proposed a plan for forgiving up to $50,000 for anyone with federal student-loan debt, which would eliminate balances for nearly 37 million borrowers.

If elected, Johnson would also “advocate for a tax credit of up to $50,000 for people who already repaid student debt, which he sees as key to attracting wider support for canceling student debt,” the Journal said.

To pay for the plan, Johnson suggested to the newspaper that a 1% tax be placed on corporate earnings. The Journal noted that two years ago, Republicans in Congress approved a tax bill that included a cut in business tax rates.

“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,” Johnson told the Journal, adding, “The time has come for us to end and stop the insanity.”

Johnson, who has a doctorate in higher education and wrote his dissertation on student debt, according to the Journal, told the newspaper that he “sees his plan as part of an effort to get the government out of the student-loan business.” As part of that plan, Johnson also proposes giving prospective students a $50,000 voucher to be used to pay for four years of tuition at a college or graduate school, according to the Journal.