DOE wants to modernize the student loan program but mucks up the planning process

Like a repentant boozer who promises to give up drinking, the Department of Education pledged to modernize its neanderthal student loan program. Unfortunately, like a chronic drunk, DOE simply can’t clean up its act.

DOE’s own Inspector General audited the Department’s modernization efforts and issued a report last week.  The audit concluded that DOE bungled its modernization job.

Typical of a government document, the Inspector General’s report is written in gov speak and is almost incomprehensible.  Here’s just one sentence from the audit report, which I urge you not to read:

FSA not completing the required or applicable planning steps or following best practices for acquisition planning for the Next Gen projects we reviewed may have contributed to the stakeholders’ misunderstandings regarding scope, project requirements, and stakeholder needs; and to multiple changes to some of the projects’ solicitations, multiple bid protests, budget deficiencies, and poorly scoped solutions that FSA described in its Summary of Lessons Learned for the Next Gen Enhanced Processing Solution and Interim Servicing Solution projects and in FSA’s Fiscal Year 2023 Congressional Budget Request.

Fortunately, Katherine Knott, an Inside Higher Ed reporter, understands gov speak and translated the auditor’s report into plain English. In a nutshell, Knot reported that DOE “didn’t follow best practices in budgeting, planning and managing the modernization of its student loan system.” Knott also wrote that DOE’s Office of Student Aid “didn’t complete budget requests for many components of the modernization until after the bid solicitations were issued.”Senior DOE officials couldn’t even agree on the modernization initiative’s objectives.

As we might expect, DOE’s officials had a gov speak excuse for the screwup. Stakeholders, including Congress, were confused and frustrated due in part to “inadequately defined changes in strategy and a failure to account for constituent feedback.”

In short, DOE’s bumbling effort to modernize its byzantine student loan program ended in a SNAFU: Situation Normal; All Fucked Up.”

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