From almost the day he was tapped to head the Office of Federal Student Aid under the Trump administration, Mark A. Brown was a target of consumer and labor groups aligned with the progressive wing of the Democratic Party. This week, they cheered his resignation.
In announcing Mr. Brown’s departure, the Biden administration’s recently confirmed education secretary, Miguel Cardona, outlined a general set of promises for the student aid office, saying it 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.”
Mr. Brown, a retired Air Force major general, was appointed chief operating officer of the agency in March 2019, overseeing a $1.6 trillion federal student loan portfolio for 43 million borrowers. His resignation on Friday came one year shy of the end of his three-year term.
Betsy DeVos, the former education secretary, appointed Mr. Brown in March 2019, a time when Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts was making student debt forgiveness a centerpiece of her campaign for the Democratic nomination for president.
Ms. Warren sent him a 23-page letter in May 2019 to congratulate him on his appointment, and to “discuss your vision for the student loan program and loan servicing, which has been under scrutiny for years,” as the letter put it. She said the agency he was leading had “repeatedly failed borrowers and taxpayers.”
She and her allies were no happier with the office under Mr. Brown. Two advocacy groups sued the agency last year for garnishing the wages of thousands of student borrowers who were behind on their loans during the coronavirus pandemic, despite a federal order not to do so. The department blamed employers.
Ms. Warren welcomed Mr. Brown’s resignation with a tweet: “Whether it was incompetence, malice, or a mix of both, @usedgov’s student loan bank under Betsy DeVos was a disaster. The resignation of her Federal Student Aid COO Gen. Mark Brown is good for student borrowers.”
Mr. Brown made a farewell video defending his record. “You do not have the luxury of opining from the sidelines or offering opinion only when it is politically convenient to do so,” he told his staff in the video. “Indeed, you find yourself in the arena each day, trying to make all this work for parents, students and borrowers.”