Department of Education makes first official senior hires

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos announced the hiring of nine senior staff members Wednesday, including an acting under secretary with significant experience working on student aid and postsecondary issues.

The hiring of most of the individuals in the announcement had previously been discussed publicly, but it was the first official announcement from DeVos about who would fill key staff positions. Like other federal agencies in the Trump administration, the Department of Education has gone nearly three months without naming appointees to a number of political positions.

James Manning, who was named senior adviser to the under secretary and acting under secretary of education, was picked last November to lead the Trump “beachhead” team at the department — the group appointed by the incoming administration to assist with the transition at each federal agency. Manning has experience as a department official going back to the Carter administration, last serving as acting chief operating officer of federal student aid. As acting under secretary, Manning would be the most senior official in the department after DeVos.

Rohit Chopra, the former student loans ombudsman at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, said Manning is experienced and fair-minded.

“He knows the Office of Federal Student Aid inside and out, which has been a trillion-dollar headache for many an education secretary,” said Chopra, who also served as a special adviser to former Education Secretary John B. King Jr. “I hope his role signals that cleaning up loan servicing and debt collection will be a top priority.”

The hires announced included others with deep experience in education policy, as well as more controversial picks.

The addition of Rob Eitel, who was named senior counselor to the secretary Wednesday, was the subject of media scrutiny last month after it was reported that he had taken a leave of absence from for-profit college chain Bridgepoint Education Inc. to serve as a special…

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