Scope of the Position:

The Chief Operating Officer (COO) of the Office of Federal Student Aid (FSA) plays a critical role within the Department of Education. This person is responsible for the distribution of grants, loans, and work-study assistance to nearly 9 million students through approximately 6,000 postsecondary institutions, 4,800 lenders, and 35 grantee organizations. The position also enforces financial aid rules and regulations, educates students and families about the availability of aid and how to obtain it, services millions of student loan accounts, and secures repayment for borrowers who default on their loans. The COO acts as an advisor to the Secretary of Education on matters pertaining to student financial assistance operations and Title IV of the Higher Education Act. The FSA allocates over $150 billion in student loans, federal grants, and work-study programs to aid students and families with attending college or trade school. The Office works to collect outstanding loans and track over 90 million loans and Pell Grants. The position also monitors and ensures compliance of schools, financial entities, and students with the laws and regulations of federal aid programs. Other programs, such as the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), are directed by the COO.

Illustrative Management Challenges:

Customer Service Difficulties with Loan Services

According to a recent study from the Government Accountability Office, difficulties with FSA's customer service contractors elicited dissatisfaction from borrowers.1 Several challenges prohibit the Department of Education from tracking and responding to service complaints. One difficulty includes the use of multiple systems to catalogue information and complaints. In addition, the rewards system for servicers corresponds with the quantity of services rather than the quality. These factors contribute to service that does not fully align with the DOE's goals for superior service and program integrity. In another study, GAO found that many borrowers experienced frustration with incomplete and inconsistent information from loan servicers.2 In other instances, the study found that FSA failed to distill information consistently throughout its service networks. These findings have urged the FSA to review and improve how it provides instructions and guidance to servicers, improve its methodology for monitoring calls between servicers and borrowers, and improve documentation of its call monitoring.

On July 19, 2016, the Department of Education issued a Formal Policy Lead on Federal Student Loan Servicing, urging the FSA to create "financial incentives for targeted outreach to people at great risk of defaulting on their loans, a baseline level of service for all borrowers and a contract flexible enough to penalize servicers for poor service, among other things."3

     Sources:

      1Federal Student Loans: Education Could Improve Direct Loan Program Customer Service and Oversight; gao.gov; May 16, 2016.
      2Federal Student Loans: Key Weaknesses Limit Education's Management of Contractors; gao.gov; November 18, 2015.
      3Government gets tough on student loan servicers, but will it be effective?; washingtonpost.com; July 20, 2016.

Chief Operating Officers, Office of Financial Student Aid:

Given the heavy operations focus of this position, experience as a private sector business executive is critical for success. Most, if not all, Chief Operating Officers served in private sector corporations as CEO, President, Vice President, COO, or CFO. Additionally, many COOs have worked in these capacities for a nonprofit or trade association.

Current Incumbent:

James Runcie (2011-present): Prior to his appointment as Chief Operating Officer, Runcie held executive positions with Bank of America Securities Corporation, Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette Securities Corporation, and Xerox. He also served as Co-Head of Equity Corporate Finance of UBS Investment Bank. In 2009, Runcie joined the Agency as an advisor and was soon appointed Deputy Chief Operating Officer. He holds a bachelor's degree in mathematics and earned his MBA from Harvard Business School.

Previous Chief Operating Officers:

William J. Taggart (2009-2011): Taggart currently serves as the Chairman and CEO of Veritas One Consulting and Executive in Residence for Morehouse College. Preceding his appoint as COO of FSA, he served as the COO of Corporate and Investment Banking at Wachovia Securities. Taggart also served as Director for Strategic Support Services with First Union and Chief Administrative Officer for Wachovia. Taggart began his career with IBM as a project manager and later served as a Senior Engagement Manager. Taggart earned his bachelor's degree in business administration from Howard University and MBA from Harvard Business School.

James F. Manning (Acting) (2008-2009): Prior to serving as Acting COO, Manning worked as Chief of Staff and Deputy Chief Operating Officer in the Agency. Manning previously worked as COO for the Catholic Alliance, National Director of the Congressional Award Foundation, and COO for the Corporation of National and Community Service and AmeriCorps. In 2006, he was appointed Acting Assistant Secretary for Postsecondary Education. In July 2003, Manning was named Acting Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights.

Lawrence A. Warder (Acting) (2007-2008): Warder is currently COO of O'Donnell Foundation. Directly preceding his appointment as Acting COO, Warder served as the Agency's Chief Financial Officer. He previously served in several positions in over 30 years with Deloitte Consulting, including Director of Southwest Operations, Director of Northeast Operations, and Global Director of Operations. He holds a BS in mathematics from the University of Akron and MBA from Kent State University.

Theresa S. Shaw (2002-2007): Shaw currently is COO of Scantron Corporation. From 2000 to 2001 Shaw served as the Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of Enumerate Solutions. For over 20 years she worked at Sallie Mae in various positions, including Senior Vice President and Chief Information Officer, Vice President of IT Application Development, Assistant Vice President of Marketing and Systems, and Assistant Vice President of Systems Quality Management. She received her BS in business administration.

Greg Woods (1998-2002): Directly preceding his time as COO, Woods served as Deputy Director for Information Technology, Customer Service, and Regulatory Reform at the National Performance Review. Woods previously was the Deputy Chief Operating Officer of Science Applications International Corporation and served as President of its subsidiary, JRB Associates. He worked as CEO of Science and Engineering Associates for eight years. He earned his bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering.

Additional Resources:

http://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/om/fs_po/fsa/intro.html 
http://www2.ed.gov/documents/press-releases/loan-servicing-policy-memo.pdf 
https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/grade-point/wp/2016/07/20/government-gets-tough-on-student-loan-servicers-but-will-it-be-effective/ 
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-16-523 
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-16-196T 
https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/about