Harrisburg – October 2, 2020 – Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale released a follow-up audit yesterday to a 2008 Auditor General report of the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA) where Sen. Wayne D. Fontana (D- Pittsburgh) sits on the PHEAA Board as Vice Chairman. The report analyzes the PHEAA’s efforts to implement set forth in the 2008 audit and gives three updated recommendations for the agency.

“Since 2008, PHEAA has made excellent strides to cultivate leadership that holds the agency more accountable, creates more fiscally responsible management of agency resources, and makes sure that student borrowers are prepared for the financial commitments they are making,” Fontana said.

One of the main observations from Auditor General DePasquale’s report states that PHEAA has not done enough to restructure the PHEAA Board of Directors to decrease the number of legislators who sit on the board and increasing diverse members of the board.

Fontana said that the General Assembly did pass Act 50 of 2010 to reduce the number of Legislative Board members from 16 to 12 and to replace those members with non-legislative board members with experience in finance, banking, investment, information technology, and higher education finance.

“Having legislators on the board of PHEAA allows constituents to have advocates within the agency to expediate and resolve issues that they may encounter,” Fontana said.

The complete recommendations released today are:

  • The General Assembly should create an independent Office of Student Loan Advocate to give borrowers a voice, help educate consumers, and advocate for state-related reforms in higher education.
  • The General Assembly should restructure PHEAA’s Board of Directors, decrease the number of legislators, and add diverse members from education, finance and other fields in the private sector.
  • PHEAA must continue to monitor all expenses and direct as much funding as possible to help ensure that Pennsylvanians can achieve an affordable education and ensure that students take the priority over PHEAA executives and management level employees.

Fontana said that it will require an act of the General Assembly of Pennsylvania to create an independent Office of Student Loan Advocates, and that the Pennsylvania Treasurer will also need to have an involved role in its implementation. 

“I am encouraged by the steps that PHEAA has taken since the 2008 report, and I am confident that we will take appropriate steps in the legislature to make sure that all the recommendations of the Auditor General’s report are properly reviewed just as we did after the 2008 report,” Fontana said.