Former Trump education official calls federal student loan program "insane"

Former Trump official calls for student loan forgiveness

Macon, Georgia — A top official in the federal student loan program resigned Thursday, calling the system "fundamentally broken." Wayne Johnson also wants billions of existing debt forgiven.

Johnson thinks Washington should follow his lead and quit the federal student loan program.

"Washington needs to be 100% out of the student loan business," he told CBS News, adding that not only is the system broken, it's an "insane system."

Johnson reported directly to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and watched student debt keep ballooning with the cost of college. In all, 42 million Americans currently have student debt. The average household owes almost $47,000.

Taylor Smith graduated from Texas A&M University, owing $53,000 in student loans.

"It just seems unconquerable. And that anxiety has just sat with me since," Smith said.

Month by month, Smith's paying it down. But 5.4 million student borrowers are in default. Johnson has a plan to wipe away much of it.  

"$50,0000 of your federal student loan debt will be extinguished." he said, adding it won't be income-based. "Everybody will get the $50,000. We are beset with a problem that has been 10 years in the making."

To pay for it, Johnson would hike corporate taxes by 1%. He's about to run in Georgia as a Republican for the U.S. Senate. Student debtors like Smith will be watching.

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  • Mark Strassmann
    Mark Strassmann

    Mark Strassmann has been a CBS News correspondent since January 2001 and is based in the Atlanta bureau.