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Showing posts with label PHEAA. Show all posts
Showing posts with label PHEAA. Show all posts

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Newspaper: Reforms overdue at PHEAA

The Mercury in Pottstown is aboard with state Auditor General Jack Wagner's recommendations for reforming Pennsylvania's troubled student-aid agency, PHEAA.

From The Mercury editorial:
Auditor General Jack Wagner examined PHEAA's spending and management practices from July 1, 2004, to June 30, 2007 and found that the agency spent $121 million on management salaries; $62.5 million in fees related to contracts with technology and advertising consultants, law firms and lobbyists; and $30 million on advertising and promotional expenses.

That is all money that could have — and should have — gone to help Pennsylvania students pay for higher education.

Wagner's report makes it clear there is more work to be done. The pattern of salaries and perks is one problem, but another is seeing that the agency is directed by financial and educational experts instead of legislators who have been collecting perks from serving.

PHEAA exists to assist the young people of Pennsylvania — taxpayers and future taxpayers — with acquiring a college education.

Wagner's scrutiny is aimed at insuring that focus becomes the primary focus of PHEAA — anything short is simply unacceptable.
Read the full editorial at the newspaper's Web site.

PHEAA helps itself

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Hold PHEAA Board accountable for mismanagement

Pennsylvania's student-loan agency has been run into the ground by overpaid executives who wasted millions of dollars and politicians who were supposed to oversee the operation.

Who pays the price? Pennsylvania students and their families.

Read "State's college students paying price for PHEAA's free-wheeling spending" in today's online edition of The Mercury for more background.

The agency is supervised by a 20-member board of directors consisting of members of the Pennsylvania Legislature and Gov. Rendell's appointees.

Below is a list of lawmakers who have served on the PHEAA board (some for decades) and were asleep at the wheel while the agency's finances were drained by executives.

Hint: Most of the people below will be on the ballot in November.

The following of lawmakers who served on the PHEAA board at the time of the spending scandals: Rep. William F. Adolph Jr.; Sen. Sean Logan; Rep. Ronald Buxton; Sen. Jake Corman; Rep. Craig Dally; Sen. Jane M. Earll; Sen. Vincent J. Fumo; Sen. Vincent J. Hughes; Rep. Sandra J. Major; Rep. Jennifer L. Mann; Rep. Joseph F. Markosek; Sen. Michael A. O'Pake *; Sen. James J. Rhoades **; Rep. James R. Roebuck Jr.; Rep. Jess M. Stairs; Sen. Robert M. Tomlinson.

* O'Pake, who served on the PHEAA board for 20 years, was recently replaced by Sen. Andrew Dinniman. ** Rhoades, another longtime board member, was replaced by Sen. Edwin B. Erickson.

Monday, February 11, 2008

PHEAA acted with ‘wanton disregard’ of the law, judge rules

The Associated Press is reporting today that the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency has been ordered to pay pay legal fees incurred by three media outlets that fought in court for release of PHEAA spending records.

This is the latest black eye for the scandal-plagued student-loan agency supervised by a Board of Directors made up mostly of of Pennsylvania legislators.

Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court Judge Doris Smith-Ribner said PHEEA acted willfully and disregarded the Right-to-Know Law in a two-year battle over spending records, including those exposing the agency's lavish retreats for top executives and board members, according to the wire service.

The judge ordered PHEAA to pay $48,000 in legal fees incurred by The Associated Press, The Harrisburg Patriot-News and WTAE-TV in Pittsburgh.

The decision issued Friday said there was no legitimate reason for PHEAA to delay access to the records for 20 months, according to the AP.

While there have been some steps taken by PHEAA toward reforming its spending habits and the executive director has retired, no one can explain why the Board of Directors who were asleep at the wheel during the scandals is still made up of mostly the same Pennsylvania lawmakers.

The following of lawmakers who served on the PHEAA board at the time of the spending scandals: Rep. William F. Adolph Jr.; Sen. Sean Logan; Rep. Ronald Buxton; Sen. Jake Corman; J. Doyle Corman; Rep. Craig Dally; Sen. Jane M. Earll; Sen. Vincent J. Fumo; Sen. Vincent J. Hughes; Rep. Sandra J. Major; Rep. Jennifer L. Mann; Rep. Joseph F. Markosek; Sen. Michael A. O'Pake*; Roy Reinard; Sen. James J. Rhoades**; Rep. James R. Roebuck Jr.; A. William Schenck III; Rep. Jess M. Stairs; Sen. Robert M. Tomlinson.

*O'Pake, who served on the PHEAA board for 20 years, was recently replaced by Sen. Andrew Dinniman. Rhoades, another longtime board member, was replaced by Sen. Edwin B. Erickson.

The AP and The Patriot-News sought records of PHEAA board retreats, while WTAE-TV wanted to records on how much the agency's 2,700 workers spent on airfare, hotel rooms, meals and other expenses between 2003 and 2005, the news service reports.

The records showed the lawmaker-dominated board spent hundreds of thousands of dollars at posh resorts between 2000 and 2005, including on luxuries such as booze, golf fees and spa treatments, according to the AP.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Dinniman joins PHEAA board

State Sen. Andy Dinniman, D-19th Dist., is the newest member of the PHEAA Board of Directors.

Let's hope Dinniman does a better job of keeping tabs on this out-of-control agency than the rest of the members of the deaf, dumb and blind board, which is made up mostly of state lawmakers.

PHEAA (Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency) has spent millions of dollars on lavish retreats and junkets for employees and board members in recent years. It also handed out exorbitant bonuses to its top executives.

Here's a quick recap of some of the agency's most outrageous expenditures:

* PHEAA spent $900,000 on trips to resorts and spas for its employees, executives and board members (including foot rubs, $150 cigars and falconry lessons) and then spent $400,000 in legal fees to prevent newspapers from gaining access to those spending records.

* PHEAA approved more than $7.5 million in bonuses for its top executives.

* PHEAA spent $108,000 on employee passes to HersheyPark.

* PHEAA spent spent $2.2 million for promotional trinkets.

None of the money spent on these items helped a single Pennsylvania student pay for college.

Responding to PHEAA's much-publicized troubles, Dinniman told the Daily Local News in West Chester that "PHEAA needs to again become the agency that simply helps Pennsylvanians pay for college and is able to do so without extravagant expenditures and controversy."

Dinniman said PHEAA has recently taken some steps toward this end and it must continue to take these steps "for the good of our students, our parents, and the commonwealth."

Dinniman, who teaches at West Chester University, may actually understand the importance of helping Pennsylvania students pay for college. That can't be said of most of the other members of the PHEAA board.

One of the failings of Senate leadership this year was allowing the same board members to continue serving after all the financial scandals became public. The entire PHEAA board should be replaced.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

PHEAA Board Chairman admits 'mistakes have been made'

I came across this letter to the editor published in The (Delaware County) Daily Times from state Rep. William Adolph Jr., who also serves as chairman of the board of directors of the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency.

PHEAA is the poster child of what is wrong with government or quasi-government agencies. They have no accountability. They squander millions of dollars. They reward incompetence. The people who are entrusted to oversee these agencies are morons or members of the Pennsylvania Legislature. Wait a minute. Isn't that the same thing?

The Delco Times, like many Pennsylvania newspapers, have been very critical of PHEAA's spending and its board's lack of oversight.

Adolph must be feeling the heat. He admits "mistakes have been made," which is the usual bromide politicians use when they've been caught doing something wrong. Adolph also promises that "PHEAA will continue to make the necessary reforms to ensure that every available nickel is spent in the best interests of our students and families."

Sure. And that property tax cut Gov. Ed Rendell has been promising me since 2002 is in the mail.

Here's his letter:

Adolph: PHEAA is getting back on track

To the Times:

Few would argue that my tenure as the new chairman of the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency Board of Directors has been anything less than challenging. In addition to dealing with suddenly changing market forces that affect how PHEAA earns money, the agency has been the subject of intense media scrutiny, an ongoing special performance audit by the state’s Attorney General and a torrent of critical barbs by opponents and other critics.

I will be the first to say that mistakes have been made in regards to spending, especially when every available dollar could best be used to help Pennsylvania students pay for college. And I say this regardless of the fact that PHEAA is supported by its earnings, not tax dollars.

By instituting a rigorous process of reform and refocusing, the board of directors is realigning PHEAA to it original role as an accountable state agency funded by its own earnings, but working solely in the service of Pennsylvania students and families at every level.

As a result, PHEAA is now operating under the most restrictive travel and business expanse reimbursement policy of any organization in the commonwealth. We have banned all business development "retreats" and instituted American's first voluntary Student Loan Code of Ethics — encouraging other student aid providers to follow our lead.

PHEAA has also conducted an aggressive and continual internal cost-cutting campaign, which includes the elimination of every nonessential expenditure.

We have slashed travel and promotional-related expenses by 78 percent when comparing the six months ending Sept. 30, 2007, with the same six months last year. And PHEAA has identified about $40 million in cost-cutting savings by evaluating every facet of its operations from top to bottom. But our goal is not just to cut costs – we must also grow PHEAA's business in order to generate more public service funding that is not at the taxpayers expense. Let's not forget that 60 percent of PHEAA's earnings during the last year came from business outside of Pennsylvania. This helped enable PHEAA to fund $200 million in student aid programs last year and nearly $1 billion during the last 10 years.

As chairman of the PHEAA board for the past eight months, I am pleased with our progress thus far. However, I want to assure every Pennsylvanian that PHEAA will continue to make the necessary reforms to ensure that every available nickel is spent in the best interests of our students and families.

By eliminating all unnecessary business expenses while simultaneously investing in business growth, all done in an accountable and transparent manner, we are not only making more funds available for student aid needs, we are also working to restore the commonwealth's faith in an agency that has helped millions of students achieve a higher education over the last 44 years.

WILLIAM F. ADOLPH Jr.
State Representative, R-165
Chairman of the Board, PHEAA

Monday, November 05, 2007

I gotta get me some PHEAA reusable glowing ice cubes

Just when you thought it couldn't get much worse for the state's embattled student-loan agency comes the revelation that PHEEA spent more than $2 million on trinkets with the agency's name on it.

The full story was published by the Harrisburg Patriot-News.

According to the newspaper, PHEAA spent $2.2 million over the past five years to place its logo on such promotional giveaways golf balls, pencils, clothing and reusable glowing ice cubes. Huh? What the hell is a reusable glowing ice cube?

I've seen private companies put their logos on knick-knacks. But a state agency that is supposed to provide loans and grants to students to cover the rising cost of college doesn't need to promote itself on ash trays and dish towels.

Wouldn't you think that the $2.2 million could have been better spent?

Some of the more unusual items with the PHEAA logo, according to The Patriot-News, were 150 brass clocks at $22 each, $30 L.L. Bean jackets, 3,000 peppermint candies with its logo on the wrapper and $3,400 worth of gummy brains candy.

Keep in mind that 16 of the 20 members of the board of directors charged with overseeing PHEAA are elected members of the Pennsylvania Legislature, no stranger to wasteful spending.

The best quote about the latest PHEAA scandal came from Rep. John Shapiro, D-Montgomery County: "Gummy brains? The officials at PHEAA must have gummy brains if they were willing to waste scholarship money on these types of wasteful expenditures."

Shapiro promised legislation to limit PHEAA's spending on promotional items.

In case you haven't been keeping track of all the hijinks at PHEEA, the agency spent $900,000 on trips to resorts and spas for its employees, executives and board members. PHEAA then spent $400,000 in legal fees to prevent newspapers from gaining access to those spending records.

PHEAA approved more than $7.5 million in bonuses for its top executives. Some of those executives have decided to retire and will be collecting six-figure pensions.

And let's not forget that PHEAA spent $108,000 on employee passes to HersheyPark to give those stressed-out workers some time to unwind.

One of the clueless lawmakers who serves on the PHEAA board, state Sen. Sean Logan, D-Allegheny, who also happens to be vice chairman of the PHEAA board, defended the $2.2 million for promotional trinkets.

Logan told The Patriot-News that the student-loan agency's promotional giveaways helped advertise it to students and clients in a competitive marketplace.

And you need any more reasons why the cesspool in Harrisburg needs to be drained?

Friday, October 05, 2007

Newspaper: Thorns to PHEAA for exorbitant spending

From today's edition of The Mercury in Pottstown, Pa.:

THORNS to a system that rewards state agency chiefs with exorbitant pension benefits. The head of Pennsylvania’s student-loan agency will qualify for an annual pension of more than $350,000 when he retires at the end of the year, according to The Patriot-News of Harrisburg. The Patriot-News used state pension system records to estimate the retirement benefits for Dick Willey, who recently announced his intention to retire as president and chief executive of the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency. Willey’s base salary is $289,000, and he received a $181,000 bonus last month that counts toward his pension. His departure comes as the agency is under scrutiny for its spending on perks and executive bonuses, which makes this another example of questionable management getting rewarded with a generous payoff. The following state lawmakers who serve on the PHEAA board of directors should be replaced on the board (and by voters in 2008) for their lack of oversight: Rep. William F. Adolph Jr.; Sen. Sean Logan; Rep. Ronald I. Buxton; Sen. Jake Corman; Rep. Craig A. Dally; Sen. Jane M. Earll; Sen. Vincent J. Fumo; Sen. Vincent J. Hughes; Rep. Sandra J. Major; Rep. Jennifer L. Mann; Rep. Joseph F. Markosek; Sen. Michael A. O’Pake; Sen. James J. Rhoades; Rep. James R. Roebuck Jr.; Rep. Jess M. Stairs; Sen. Robert M. Tomlinson.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Good riddance Dick Willey, but how about the rest of the PHEAA board?

Penny for your thoughts, Dick Willey. Hmmm ... Maybe that trip to Hersheypark wasn't the best idea.

The pensive gentleman pictured here is Dick Willey, the former president and chief executive officer of the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency.

Times were good under Willey's tenure. The champagne flowed at ritzy resorts, where foot rubs and facials were the norm, in between expensive meals, $150 cigars and rounds of golf. Who would have thought that a trip to Hersheypark would lead to Willey's ignominious exit from his $289,000-a-year job?

Willey treated PHEAA employees and their families to a day of fun in "the sweetest place on Earth" to the tune of $108,000. I speak from experience that a trip to Hersheypark can leave your wallet flat. A slice of pizza and bottle of water will set you back $6, which charges $46 for admission.

I guess Willey didn't think anyone would notice … until that busybody Jack Wagner came along. Wagner, the state auditor general, released a scathing report Thursday documenting excessive spending by the state's student-loan agency.

The audit comes after months of troubling revelations about trips to swanky resorts by PHEAA executives and board members. Nearly $900,000 was spent on the junkets. And the agency spent another $400,000 to hire lawyers to fight release of the expense reports when news agencies filed lawsuits seeking access to spending records.

And those bonuses. Wagner said PHEEA handed out $2.5 million in bonuses to employees during the previous fiscal year, which ended June 30, 2007. Willey himself pocketed $181,000 in bonus money last month.

Willey was planning to retire at the end of the year, but the Hersheypark incident was the final straw. He's leaving town next week.

Willey deserves the public humiliation he got, but let's not forget his co-conspirators. The 20-member PHEAA Board of Directors, consisting of current Pennsylvania lawmakers and other government appointees, is also guilty of incompetence in failing to adequately supervise PHEAA spending.

Smelling blood, the politicians quickly pounced on Willey's carcass Thursday.

From the Associated Press:

Sen. Sean Logan, D-Allegheny, the board's vice chairman, said it was "totally unacceptable" that the board was not told in advance about the April 22 outing at Hersheypark, about a month after PHEAA executives had pledged to rein in unnecessary spending.

"This is another example of Dick Willey thinking he's bigger than the board," Logan said.

Most of the board members have been "supervising" PHEAA for 20 years or more. If they didn't know about the wasteful spending, they're too stupid to serve in an oversight capacity. If they knew and went along, they don't deserve to hold public office.

All 20 board members should be removed and the 16 elected legislators voted out by their constituents. Many of them will be on the ballot in 2008.

The following is a list of PHEAA board members: Rep. William F. Adolph Jr.; Sen. Sean Logan; Rep. Ronald I. Buxton; Sen. Jake Corman; J. Doyle Corman; Rep. Craig A. Dally; Sen. Jane M. Earll; Sen. Vincent J. Fumo; Sen. Vincent J. Hughes; Rep. Sandra J. Major; Rep. Jennifer L. Mann; Rep. Joseph F. Markosek; Sen. Michael A. O'Pake; Roy Reinard; Sen. James J. Rhoades; Rep. James R. Roebuck Jr.; A. William Schenck III; Rep. Jess M. Stairs; Sen. Robert M. Tomlinson; and Rendell's Education Secretary, Gerald L. Zahorchak.

Wagner told the AP that PHEAA should eliminate the bonus program altogether.

"They are state employees, not money managers on Wall Street," he said.

And none other than Gov. Ed Rendell chimed in.

Rendell said the report showed clearly there have been "abuses," including the Hersheypark event, according to the AP.

"We've got to clean that agency up," Rendell said.

This from a many who has presided over $6 billion in new state spending over the past five years.

There's a lot more cleaning up to do in Pennsylvania than just PHEAA, Gov. Spendell.

Much-needed oversight legislation moves forward

The Pennsylvania Senate's State Government Committee on Wednesday approved Sen. John Rafferty's legislation to require Senate confirmation for individuals appointed to the following positions:

Gaming Control Board - Executive Director
Lottery Fund, Department of Revenue - Executive Director
PA Higher Education Assistance Agency - Chief Executive Officer
Liquor Control Board - Chief Executive Officer
Turnpike Commission - Chief Executive Officer

It's about time. If the news that Dick Willey (base salary of $289,000 and a 2007 bonus of $181,000) is retiring from the scandal-plagued PHEEA to collect an annual pension $370,000 doesn't upset every Pennsylvania taxpayer, somebody should be checking for a pulse.

Rafferty's bill may not prevent such flagrant misuse of public money in the future, but it provides some record of accountability. These "public servants" will be put on notice that someone is watching if they have to appear before the Senate for confirmation.

Each of those agencies is an example of wasteful spending, cronyism and mismanagement. Politicians routinely get jobs for friends and relatives with those state agencies or move from elected positions to high-paying appointed jobs with the agencies.

Rafferty, a Republican who represents the 44th Senate District in Montgomery, Berks and Chester counties, said the oversight measure would require majority approval by the Senate before anyone gets one of those plum jobs.

The proposed legislation stems from the recent selection process held by the governor's office when appointing a new CEO to the Liquor Control Board, Rafferty said in a written release.

Earlier this year, former Sen. Joe Conti, a Republican from Bucks County, was appointed by Gov. Ed Rendell to the newly created post of chief executive officer of the state Liquor Control Board, earning $150,000 a year.

Conti made $60,000 as a state senator. (The reason Rendell was so generous with a Republican lawmaker is that Conti guided Rendell's casino slots bill through the Republican-controlled Senate.)

Conti did not seek re-election to his Senate seat in 2006. He was one of 55 incumbent lawmakers who were forced into retirement or thrown out by voters at the polls in the wake of the July 2005 Legislative pay raise vote. Almost all of the ousted lawmakers voted for the 16 percent to 54 percent pay raise for themselves, the governor and state judges.

Public outcry, fanned by reform activists, bloggers, talk radio and newspaper columnists, forced the Legislature to repeal the pay raise in November 2005, but the state Supreme Court upheld the judicial portion of the pay raise. There are still a number of prominent lawmakers who have not returned the pay raise.

That has led to a campaign by PACleanSweep to oust nearly all of the state judges in the Nov. 6, 2007, General Election. Read more about the "Judicial Clean Sweep" effort at http://www.pacleansweep.com/

The pay raise furor has also forced the Legislature to propose all sorts of reform measures, but to date, more than 750 days after the pay raise vote, only one minor reform measure has been passed by the Pennsylvania Legislature. Read more about the state's stalled reform effort at http://www.democracyrisingpa.com/

Rafferty said the focus of his legislation is to create a more transparent process in which the Executive and Legislative branches of the Pennsylvania government work together to appoint future executive directors and chief executive officers for the aforementioned boards, agencies and commissions.

"These state agencies have control over billions of dollars of taxpayer money with little or no control or consent over the appointment of the CEO," Rafferty said. "The Senate should at a minimum have the ability to review the qualifications of the CEO to determine if they have the experience to run such a large agency and confirm the appointments. Much is at stake, including reform and accountability in government."

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

First Cappy, now Willey

The air smells fresher in Pennsylvania these days.

No sooner have reformers celebrated the unexpected exit of Ralph Cappy, the chief justice of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, when we get the news that Richard Willey, the handsomely-paid CEO of the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency, is joining Cappy at the retirement home.

Willey, who makes $289,000 a year (the highest paid state official in Pennsylvania), has been the target of reformers, Legislators and even Ed Rendell for overseeing questionable spending by the agency in charge of providing student loans.

Willey himself pocketed a "bonus" of $181,000 this summer as part of more than $500,000 in bonus money awarded to top PHEAA executives.

That didn't sit well with Pennsylvania residents struggling to send their kids to college. PHEAA also spent nearly $900,000 on lavish trips to resorts for its executives and the board members assigned to oversee the operation.

The retirement of Cappy, one of the architects of the infamous July 2005 pay raise, and Willey can be considered victories for the reform movement in Pennsylvania.

Pennsylvanians not only have the power to get rid of greedy politicians at the ballot box. The bully pulpit, consisting of a handful of citizen activists, aided by the state's thriving blogger community, talk radio and a few courageous newspaper columnists, has been instrumental in helping clean up this state.

The job isn't done.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Belt-tightening at PHEAA

The Pennsylvania agency responsible for providing student loans is going on a diet.

It could be spin, but the honchos at the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency are saying that they're tightening their belts because of anticipated federal government cutbacks, not because of the growing backlash over outlandish executive bonuses or lavish spending on trips to luxury resorts.

The Harrisburg Patriot-News reported Wednesday that PHEAA Executive Director Richard Willey has issued a memo to his 2,600 employees saying the agency has to find another $19 million of "unanticipated cuts" to meet its nearly $200 million in public service commitments and avoid layoffs. Is it really possible there are 2,600 essential employees at this agency?

PHEAA, the state's official poster child of wasteful spending, has come under fire from Gov. Ed Rendell and members of the state Legislature for its huge bonuses to executives and nearly $900,000 in junket spending. The agency also spent $400,000 in legal fees attempting to prevent several news agencies from obtaining information about the spending.

The PHEAA board, which consists primarily of members of the state Legislature, recently approved $570,000 in bonuses to Willey and his four executive vice presidents. PHEAA executives are among the highest paid "public servants" in Pennsylvania, with Willey earning more than the governor.

PHEAA apologists say the agency is funded primarily through investments, but there is that matter of $500 million a year in taxpayer dollars that PHEAA gets from the state treasury.

There is pending legislation to tighten the reins on PHEAA and change the makeup of its board, which wins the Rip Van Winkle Award for sleeping through one of the worst fiscal scandals in modern Pennsylvania history.

While PHEAA executives are living large, Pennsylvania residents are struggling to pay the skyrocketing cost of a college education. Pennsylvania is the 5th most expensive state to attend college, according to a recent survey.

PHEAA executives will have to say goodbye to those $150 cigars and the foot massages at swanky spas. Times are tough all over.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Senator: PHEAA bonus scandal worse than initially reported

State Sen. John H. Eichelberger Jr., R-30th Dist., said he has seen a letter from Gov. Ed Rendell to the chairman, vice chairman and board members of the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency in which Rendell listed "startling new information about the depth of the problems swirling around PHEAA."

The $570,000 bonus figure for top PHEAA executives initially released included just the agency's management team. The new total includes bonus money paid to all staff in 2007 and has soared to $2.5 million, according to Eichelberger.

PHEAA is the Pennsylvania agency responsible for providing student loans to college students. While most of the agency's funding comes from investments, Pennsylvania taxpayers contribute $500 million a year to PHEAA.

"The patronage laden work force reaches a total of 2,574 employees," Eichelberger noted. "Defenders of PHEAA cite the good work of the agency and the management in particular to justify these bonuses, but a closer look reveals that when comparing the same nine-month period from last year to this, operating expenses have grown 70 percent faster than operating revenues, operating income is down and the agency's net assets are $11.5 million lower."

Eichelberger is outraged by the growing scandal, saying, "This mess is unfortunately what I have found all too often in Harrisburg. The legislature and many state agencies are bloated bureaucracies that have no regard whatsoever for the hard working people who pay their salaries. This is an embarrassment for Pennsylvania and I will do everything in my power to stop this abuse immediately."

PHEAA fought for two years to prevent release of expense records that showed the agency wasted nearly $900,000 on trips to resorts and spas and lavish gifts for its executives, board members and their spouses.

The bonuses to top executives have also been widely criticized. PHEAA's top executive, Richard E. Willey, received $180,857 in addition to his annual salary of $289,118. Bonuses of $113,514 each were awarded to Tim Guenther, executive vice president and chief financial officer; Brian Lecher, executive vice president of information technology and chief information officer; and James Preston, executive vice president of client relations and loan operations. Kelly Powell Logan, executive vice president of public service and marketing, received a $52,436 bonus. Guenther, Lecher and Preston earn annual salaries of $217,757 each; Logan's is $201,178.

PHEAA previously awarded $852,834 in bonuses in the 2005-06 fiscal year to Willey and six executive vice presidents.

The lack of oversight by members of the Legislature who make up the PHEAA board is scandalous. For a national perspective on the PHEAA mess, read Richard Vedder's article, "Ripping Off Taxpayers, Pennsylvania Style" at the Center for College Affordability and Productivity blog.

The following is a list of PHEAA board members, primarily incumbent state lawmakers: Rep. William F. Adolph Jr.; Sen. Sean Logan; Rep. Ronald I. Buxton; Sen. Jake Corman; J. Doyle Corman; Rep. Craig A. Dally; Sen. Jane M. Earll; Sen. Vincent J. Fumo; Sen. Vincent J. Hughes; Rep. Sandra J. Major; Rep. Jennifer L. Mann; Rep. Joseph F. Markosek; Sen. Michael A. O'Pake; Roy Reinard; Sen. James J. Rhoades; Rep. James R. Roebuck Jr.; A. William Schenck III; Rep. Jess M. Stairs; Sen. Robert M. Tomlinson; and Rendell Education Secretary Gerald L. Zahorchak.

Many of the career politicians listed above will seek re-election in 2008, as if you needed any more reasons to vote them out.

A major overhaul of the scandal-ridden agency is long overdue. It should start with all the top executives and should include replacement of all 20 board members. The foxes have been guarding the chicken coop long enough.

Additional oversight, including bills introduced by state Sen. John Rafferty and state Sen. Jane C. Orie, to require independent audits and a new way of appointing the PHEAA board, should be a priority when the Legislature returns in session.

(Cartoon by Randy Bish/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review)

Friday, August 24, 2007

Thorns to student loan agency for handing out excessive bonuses

A couple of Thorns (ouch!) handed out today by The Mercury to PHEAA and to the State Police. Here's the editorial below. I agree 100 percent with both comments:

THORNS to the officials who run Pennsylvania’s student loan agency for another round of exorbitant spending by an agency with a history of wasting money. The Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency, which was widely criticized earlier this year when it was revealed it spent nearly $900,000 for lavish trips and gifts for its administrators, board members and spouses, has awarded more than $500,000 in bonuses to its top executives. The biggest bonus approved by an executive committee of PHEAA’s 20-member board went to PHEAA’s top executive, Richard E. Willey, who will receive $180,857 in addition to his annual salary of $289,118. Bonuses of $113,514 each were awarded to Tim Guenther, executive vice president and chief financial officer; Brian Lecher, executive vice president of information technology and chief information officer; and James Preston, executive vice president of client relations and loan operations. Kelly Powell Logan, executive vice president of public service and marketing, received a $52,436 bonus. Guenther, Lecher and Preston earn annual salaries of $217,757 each; Logan’s is $201,178. PHEAA previously awarded $852,834 in bonuses in the 2005-06 fiscal year to Willey and six executive vice presidents. “Disturbing, to say the least,” is how a spokesman for Gov. Ed Rendell greeted the news of the bonuses. “This is another example of the agency’s failure to understand that its mission is to help students pay for college and not to provide further compensation for well-paid executives,” Chuck Ardo said. We agree. While PHEAA, a nonprofit corporation created and largely controlled by the Legislature, finances its operating expenses from its own investments, it receives $500 million a year in state taxpayer money. The lack of oversight by members of the Legislature who make up the PHEAA board is equally disturbing. A major overhaul of the agency and its board is overdue.

THORNS to the Pennsylvania State Police for not considering the impact on the state’s hunters and gun shop owners when the agency decided to shut down the state’s computerized criminal background check system from Sept. 2-6. The state police announced last week that it was planning to suspend the background checks during the Labor Day weekend to upgrade its computer system, a move that would halt gun sales during the first days of dove and Canada geese hunting seasons. Timing appears to be a problem for the state police. The agency failed to respond in a timely manner during the Valentine’s Day ice storm that stranded thousands of motorists on Interstate 78. The state police’s top brass also drew criticism from lawmakers and residents when it decided to close many of its barracks at 5 p.m. in a money-saving move. Shutting down the computer system at the start of hunting season is another example of bad timing on the part of the state police. The computer maintenance could be done later in the fall or winter.

Copyright 2007, The Mercury

Thursday, August 23, 2007

The people running PHEAA never learn

For people in the education field, you'd think they would have learned a lesson by now.

Stung earlier this year by the revelation of $900,000 in spending on lavish trips and gifts by PHEAA board members and top executives, you'd think the agency would be on its best behavior. Not so. The Associated Press reports that PHEAA, which provides student loans to Pennsylvania residents, handed out $500,000 in bonuses to its already well-paid executives.

There are efforts under way in the Legislature, spearheaded by state Sen. John Rafferty to provide more oversight over PHEAA. Those measure can't come soon enough.

Eric Epstein, coordinator of the watchdog group, RockTheCapital.org, is offering a 12-step program to reform PHEEA. I second that motion.

Here's Epstein's plan:

Twelve Step Program to Reform the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency

1) No individual indicted or arraigned by state or federal authorities for felonious conduct can continue to serve on the Board. However, Board Members should only be required to take a leave of absence until the matter is resolved. Full resignation from the Board should only be
required in the event of being found guilty of a felony or an offense involving moral turpitude.

2) The Board should be reduced from 20 to nine (9) members. Members of the Board shall serve no more than three consecutive four-year terms and no more than a total of 12 years.

3) The Board should be composed of directors with appropriate skill sets in accounting, community banking, economics, education, finance, marketing, law or statistics. Board members will be eligible for annual compensation and business meeting stipends as well as reimbursement for legitimate expenses in accord with governance protocol and prevailing public service directorship fees. All data related to Board compensation and expenses will be available for public review.

4) Board members should be nominated by the Governor and approved by 37 senators. Unless a vacancy exists on the Board, the Governor shall nominate no more than four Board Members during each four-year term.

5) No current member of the legislative or executive branches of state government should be a eligible to serve as a member of the Board thereby nullifying the claim that Board members "compel the conclusion that the legislative members of PHEAA's board are acting as an arm of the General Assembly when they engage in PHEAA activities." (Richard Wiley, PHEAA, “Final Decision”, June 7, 2006 )

The Executive Director of PHEAA shall not be a member of PHEAA's Board
of Directors.

6) PHEAA's current Board of Directors, together with senior management, should issue a statement acknowledging that PHEAA is not exempt from Pennsylvania's Right-to-Know Law.

7) PHEAA should reimburse the legal costs of the three news organizations that filed Right to Know requests, i.e., the Associated Press, the Patriot-News of Harrisburg and WTAE-TV in Pittsburgh.

8) PHEAA's current Board of Directors, together with senior management, should immediately release all records requested by legitimate news organizations, including all names or other information necessary to a complete understanding of the nature and purpose of all financial transactions, and release the outstanding records requested by the above-named news agencies.

10) PHEAA's Board should issue a statewide request for proposal for bond lawyers and counsel not affiliated with senior management or the Board of Directors or "contractually affiliated" with any cabinet member of the executive branch or any member of the legislative branch of Pennsylvania's government.

11) PHEAA's Board should issue request for proposals for a forensic audit to be conducted by one of the Nationally-recognized "Big Four" accounting firms. an entity not affiliated with senior management or the Board of Directors.

12) PHEAA's Board should accept Richard Willey's resignation, with severance compensation contractually in effect and required as of his last compensation review date, and conduct a statewide search for a qualified Executive Director, not "contractually affiliated" with senior
management or the Board of Directors or "contractually affiliated" with any cabinet member of the executive branch or any member of the legislative branch of Pennsylvania's government.

Below is a list of PHEAA Board members who are ultimately responsible for the financial excesses at the agency. Most of them are current members of the Pennsylvania Legislature, in which case you might want to ask, "What the hell is wrong with people?"

Rep. William F. Adolph, Jr. Chairman Springfield
Senator Sean LoganVice Chairman Monroeville
Rep. Ronald I. Buxton Harrisburg
Senator Jake Corman Bellefonte
Honorable J. Doyle Corman Bellefonte
Rep. Craig A. Dally Nazareth
Senator Jane M. Earll Erie
Senator Vincent J. Fumo Philadelphia
Senator Vincent J. Hughes Philadelphia
Rep. Sandra J. Major Montrose
Rep. Jennifer L. Mann Allentown
Rep. Joseph F. Markosek Monroeville
Senator Michael A. O'Pake Reading
Honorable Roy Reinard Holland
Senator James J. Rhoades Mahanoy City
Rep. James R. Roebuck, Jr. Philadelphia
A. William Schenck III Pittsburgh
Rep. Jess M. Stairs Acme
Senator Robert M. Tomlinson Bensalem
Secretary Gerald L. Zahorchak PA Department of Education

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Cleaning up the mess at PHEAA

Say goodbye to the $150 cigars, the $10,000 bar tabs, the gourmet meals and those facials and foot rubs.

The days of living large at the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency appear to be coming to an end. It was great while it lasted.

Pennsylvania Auditor General Jack Wagner announced his department plans to audit PHEAA in light of the $750,000 in questionable spending by the agency in recent years.

On Wednesday, state Sen. John Rafferty, R-44th Dist., said he has asked a Senate committee to hold hearings on PHEAA expenses.

The jig is up, boys.

Rafferty has also introduced legislation to shake up the PHEAA board, which is made up mostly of fellow lawmakers who have been asleep at the wheel while PHEAA employees lived the lifestyles of the rich and famous on money that could have been used to provide grants and loans to Pennsylvania college students.

In a release announcing the hearings, Sen. Raffery said he is "outraged by the excessive and wasteful spending by PHEAA" and wants the Pennsylvania Senate Republican Policy Committee to conduct public hearings in May on the policies regarding expenditures of PHEAA employees and board members; and review legislation to provide better oversight.

Over the last few years, lavish expenses for board members and employees for trips, spas, golf, alcohol and even falconry lessons were approved, according to Rafferty.

Sen. Rafferty has introduced legislation that will require PHEAA to contract with a third party accounting firm to conduct an annual forensic audit of the PHEAA board that must be submitted to the House and Senate Finance Committees by April 1 of each year.

PHEAA would also be required on that date to submit a report to the Senate and House Finance Committees that contains all expenses and revenues associated with the operations of the PHEAA board.

This legislation also requires that all appointees to the PHEAA board selected by the House and the Senate be approved by a majority vote in their respective chambers. It would prohibit standing legislators from serving more than two consecutive terms on the PHEAA board.

"Our goal is to bring greater accountability and fiscal responsibility to PHEAA and ensure that funds are not spent in a wasteful or unnecessary manner," Rafferty said. "The recent stories of financial mismanagement and over-the top-spending have made it necessary for us to take a closer look at the agency's fiscal bottom line."

Among the legislators serving on the PHEAA board are Rep. William F. Adolph Jr.; Sen. Sean Logan; Rep. Ronald I. Buxton; Sen. Jake Corman; Rep. Craig A. Dally; Sen. Jane M. Earll; Sen. Vincent J. Fumo; Sen. Vincent J. Hughes; Rep. Sandra J. Major; Rep. Jennifer L. Mann; Rep. Joseph F. Markosek; Sen. Michael A. O'Pake; Sen. James J. Rhoades; Rep. James R. Roebuck Jr.; Rep. Jess M. Stairs; and Sen. Robert M. Tomlinson.

No response yet from PHEAA President and CEO Dick Willey to Rafferty's call for Senate hearings, but Willey did issue a statement regarding Wagner's call for a performance audit, essentially saying, "Bring it on."

"PHEAA is typically audited more than 40 times every year by our regulating authorities and other entities," Willey said. "We have become very accustomed to the auditing environment and take advantage of audits to not only validate, monitor and account for our financial and compliance activities, but also as an effective tool to help us better manage and improve our operations."

Hey, when you're the second highest-paid public official in the state (Willey makes $290,000 a year, not counting bonuses), you can afford to be cavalier.

Rafferty's efforts to clean up the PHEAA mess are commendable. But any reform at PHEAA will have to start with the departure of Willey and the replacement of everyone on the agency's board.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

PHEAA watchdogs: I hear nothing, I see nothing, I know nothing!

Remember the line Sgt. Schultz used in every episode of the old "Hogan's Heroes" TV series? "I hear nothing, I see nothing, I know nothing!"

When I read an interview with my state senator about the growing scandal over spending for lavish trips to resorts by employees and executives of the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency, I kept hearing Sgt. Schultz's memorable catch phrase.

I've decided to award state Sen. Michael A. O'Pake the first Sgt. Hans Schultz Memorial Award for the worst job of overseeing a state agency.

Despite serving on the PHEAA board of directors for nearly 20 years, O'Pake told the Reading Eagle he had no idea that the agency had spent nearly $900,000 for extravagant trips and outlandish personal pampering.

O'Pake admitted to reporter Kori Walter that he went along on one of the trips about six years ago, but he was otherwise oblivious to the fact that the agency staffers and executives took these trips regularly while failing to provide any justification for the expenses.

"We don't approve or even see the expenditures that the working staff and the heads of this agency have," the Berks County Democrat told the newspaper.

O'Pake said he has not attended a PHEAA retreat since 2001. "In between the retreats there was lots of money being spent on the higher-ups (at PHEAA)," O'Pake told Walter. "It was just never raised at any of the board meetings."

In other words, "I hear nothing, I see nothing, I know nothing!"

What kind of expenses are we talking about?

A $10,000 bar tab. A $75 pedicure and $15 tip. A $3,900 hot-air-balloon ride. A $175 charge for falconry lessons. A $115 tab for a European facial. Greens fees totaling $2,659 on a golf outing. A limo ride for $966. Fly-fishing lessons for $836. Cigars costing $665. A $128 bill for a tuxedo rental. Meal expenses totaling $47,000 for a three-day trip. "Client appreciation" expenses, including spa treatments, costing $21,308.

Those are some of the jaw-dropping bills Pennsylvania's student-loan agency ran up for a series of "educational" trips to lavish resorts.

Can anyone explain how any of those expenditures helped one student get a loan for his college education?

PHEAA has fought hard to keep this information secret from the taxpayers of Pennsylvania, claiming that its expense records are "trade secrets." It took a lawsuit by three news-gathering organizations to force the independent state agency to release records of its extravagant spending.

PHEAA uses income from its student-loan business to pay for its operating costs, which totaled about $261 million last year, according to the Associated Press. But the wire service also points out that PHEAA received around $500 million a year in state tax dollars that it spent on college grants and subsidies.

And who is supposed to be looking out for that $500 million in taxpayer dollars? PHEAA answers to a 20-member board of directors made up mostly of Pennsylvania legislators.

The "fiscal watchdogs" include: Rep. William F. Adolph Jr., Sen. Sean Logan, Rep. Ronald I. Buxton, Sen. Jake Corman, Rep. Craig A. Dally, Sen. Jane M. Earll, Sen. Vincent J. Fumo, Sen. Vincent J. Hughes, Rep. Sandra J. Major, Rep. Jennifer L. Mann, Rep. Joseph F. Markosek, Sen. Michael A. O'Pake, Sen. James J. Rhoades, Rep. James R. Roebuck Jr., Rep. Jess M. Stairs, Sen. Robert M. Tomlinson.

Also serving on the PHEAA board is Gerald L. Zahorchak, Gov. Ed Rendell's education secretary, one of four appointees by the governor to the PHEAA board so "Teflon" Ed Rendell shares some of the blame in this disgrace.

While O'Pake and his legislative cohorts were obviously asleep at the wheel, other lawmakers are attempting to clean up the PHEAA mess.

State Sen. John Rafferty, R-Montgomery, and state Sen. Jane C. Orie, R-Allegheny, unveiled a plan to restructure the current appointment, reporting and accounting procedures of the PHEAA board.

This legislation will require PHEAA to contract with a third party accounting firm to conduct an annual forensic audit of the PHEAA board which must be submitted to the House and Senate Finance Committees by April 1 of each year. PHEAA would also be required on that date to submit a report to the Senate and House Finance Committees which contains all expenses and revenues associated with the operations of the PHEAA board.

This legislation also requires that all appointees to the PHEAA Board selected by the House and the Senate be approved by a majority vote in their respective chambers. It would prohibit standing legislators from serving more than two consecutive terms on the PHEAA board.

"Our goal is to bring greater accountability and fiscal responsibility to PHEAA and ensure that funds are not spent in a wasteful or unnecessary manner," Rafferty said. "The recent stories of financial mismanagement and over-the top-spending have made it necessary for us to take a closer look at the Agency’s fiscal bottom line."

Orie added that the legislation will ensure that PHEAA revenue is used for the purpose it was intended — to provide low-interest grants and loans to students.

"Lavish trips, tuxedos, and spa visits are not defensible expenses and should be stopped," Orie said. "This legislation will ensure that money is spent prudently and put PHEAA on notice that it has to be accountable to the Legislature and the citizens of Pennsylvania."

Accountability. Fiscal responsibility. What a novel concept for a state agency.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Cleaning up the PHEAA mess

Two Republican state senators plan to introduce legislation to bring some accountability and fiscal sanity to PHEAA, the student-loan agency that has wasted nearly $1 million to pamper its employees and the legislators who serve on its board.

It's about time.

State Sen. John Rafferty (R-Montgomery) and state Sen. Jane C. Orie (R-Allegheny) recently unveiled a plan to restructure the current appointment, reporting and accounting procedures of the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA) board.

The legislation will require PHEAA to contract with a third party accounting firm to conduct an annual forensic audit of the PHEAA board which must be submitted to the House and Senate Finance Committees by April 1 of each year.

PHEAA would also be required on that date to submit a report to the Senate and House Finance Committees which contains all expenses and revenues associated with the operations of the PHEAA board.

Imagine that. An audit of an agency that spends hundreds of millions of dollars, much of it taxpayer dollars, during the course of the year.

Why didn't the executive director of PHEAA think of that? This legislation also requires that all appointees to the PHEAA board selected by the House and the Senate be approved by a majority vote in their respective chambers.

It would prohibit standing legislators from serving more than 2 consecutive terms on the PHEAA board. (Some of the current PHEAA board members have served for 20 years).

This is where it gets good. The PHEAA board, made up mostly of state legislators and members of Gov. Rendell's administration, has been asleep at the wheel for decades while the agency wasted hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Some familiar legislative names on the PHEAA board include Rep. William F. Adolph Jr., Sen. Sean Logan, Rep. Ronald I. Buxton, Sen. Jake Corman, Rep. Craig A. Dally, Sen. Jane M. Earll, Sen. Vincent J. Fumo, Sen. Vincent J. Hughes, Rep. Sandra J. Major, Rep. Jennifer L. Mann, Rep. Joseph F. Markosek, Sen. Michael A. O'Pake, Sen. James J. Rhoades, Rep. James R. Roebuck Jr., Rep. Jess M. Stairs, Sen. Robert M. Tomlinson.

"Our goal is to bring greater accountability and fiscal responsibility to PHEAA and ensure that funds are not spent in a wasteful or unnecessary manner," Rafferty said. "The recent stories of financial mismanagement and over-the top-spending have made it necessary for us to take a closer look at the agency’s fiscal bottom line."

Orie added that the legislation will ensure that PHEAA revenue is used for the purpose it was intended – to provide low-interest grants and loans to students.

"Lavish trips, tuxedos, and spa visits are not defensible expenses and should be stopped," Orie said. "This legislation will ensure that money is spent prudently and put PHEAA on notice that it has to be accountable to the Legislature and the citizens of Pennsylvania."

Ken Schaefer, chairman of Vote For Integrity, a citizens' watchdog group, has called for the immediate resignation of Richard Willey, president and CEO of PHEAA.

Willey, who makes $470,000 a year and was awarded a $180,000 bonus last year, should step down immidiately or be fired. The $900,000 was wasted during his tenure and the agency cannot regain public confidence as long as Willey remains CEO.

All incumbent PHEAA board members should also step down. These career politicians failed to perform their oversight duties over PHEAA.

(It's also interesting to note that most of the legislators on the PHEAA board voted themselves huge pay raises in July 2005. These people have a serious judgment problem.)

Monday, March 12, 2007

A costly education at PHEAA

A $10,000 bar tab.

$47,000 to cover meals on a three-day trip.

$21,308 in expenses related to "client appreciation," including spa treatments.

Those are some of the jaw-dropping bills Pennsylvania's student-loan agency ran up for a series of "educational" trips to lavish resorts for its staff members.

The total bill? Somewhere between $750,000 and $900,000. And that's just the money we know about. The Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA) has fought hard to keep this information secret from the taxpayers of Pennsylvania, claiming that its expense records are "trade secrets."

It took a lawsuit by three news-gathering organizations to force the independent state agency to release records of its extravagant spending.

The Associated Press and the Harrisburg Patriot-News filed requests seeking records of luxury excursion by PHEAA employees and board members. Last month, PHEAA released more than 13,000 pages of receipts and vouchers sought by WTAE-TV in Pittsburgh for airfare, hotel rooms, meals and other expenses incurred by PHEAA's 2,700 employees between 2003 and 2005.

PHEAA uses income from its student-loan business to pay for its operating costs, which totaled about $261 million last year, according to an article by Martha Raffaele of the Associated Press.

But Raffaele points out that PHEEA also received around $500 million a year in state tax dollars that it spent on college grants and subsidies.

And who is suppose to be looking out for that $500 million in taxpayer dollars? PHEAA answers to a 20-member board of directors, which includes 16 members of the Pennsylvania Legislature.

Some familiar legislative names on the PHEAA board include: Rep. William F. Adolph Jr., Sen. Sean Logan, Rep. Ronald I. Buxton, Sen. Jake Corman, Rep. Craig A. Dally, Sen. Jane M. Earll, Sen. Vincent J. Fumo, Sen. Vincent J. Hughes, Rep. Sandra J. Major, Rep. Jennifer L. Mann, Rep. Joseph F. Markosek, Sen. Michael A. O'Pake, Sen. James J. Rhoades, Rep. James R. Roebuck Jr., Rep. Jess M. Stairs, Sen. Robert M. Tomlinson.

Members of the very same Legislature that has been fleecing taxpayers for years.

Also serving on the PHEAA board is Gerald L. Zahorchak, Gov. Ed Rendell’s education secretary, one of four appointees by the governor to the PHEAA board so 'Teflon' Ed Rendell shares some of the blame in this disgrace.

According to Raffaele, the expense records released by PHEAA show receipts for golf outings, banquets, spa treatments and entertainment related to a three-day, $135,638 retreat in June 2005 to Nemacolin Woodlands Resort near Pittsburgh.

One invoice grouped the expenses into three broad categories, the largest of which was more than $79,000 for meals, events and meeting expenses, Raffaele reports.

From Raffaele's story that moved Monday:

Dinners alone amounted to more than $47,000 over three days, one of which featured a "Tour of Italy" themed dinner buffet, a mashed-potato bar, and carving stations with bourbon honey mustard-glazed ham and southern-fried turkey breast. The total included a bar tab of $10,726. Another category included $21,308 in expenses related to "client appreciation." Spa treatments totaling $9,542 accounted for the largest single expense in that category, followed by almost $9,000 for golf outings. More than $34,000 in expenses were related to lodging. The board has also taken trips to resorts in California's Napa Valley, Maryland's Eastern Shore, Virginia and West Virginia.

How many Pennsylvania students could have used the $900,000 wasted by PHEAA to cover loans for college? Only Ed Rendell and the Pennsylvania legislators on the PHEAA board know.

Ken Schaefer, chairman of Vote For Integrity, has called for the resignation of Richard Willey, president and CEO of PHEAA. Willey is also the highest paid public official in Pennsylvania.

Even Rendell, no stranger to excess government spending, says changes must be made at the student loan agency.

"It has to have a total housecleaning," Rendell told reporters earlier this month. "When the cost of college is more and more challenging to Pennsylvanians and their families, we can't have the abuses that PHEAA has had for so long."

It should be noted that most of the "abuses" took place under Gov. Rendell's watch.