Mission Accomplished

If politics were as data-driven as baseball, and scorekeepers kept a statistic to measure how much impact a person had per day or week or month, Robert Shireman would almost certainly have made the all-star team.

The U.S. Education Department is expected to formally announce today that Shireman, the U.S. deputy under secretary of education, will leave his position July 1 after 14 months in the job. Shireman’s departure was widely expected, given that he and his family had been happily ensconced in the Bay Area for more than a decade and that the primary goal that drew him back to Washington — the prospect of securing the future of the government’s Direct Student Loan Program and ending all lending through the competing Federal Family Education Loan Program — was accomplished when Congress passed budget legislation in March.

But as Shireman prepares to end his second (and much shorter) stint in the nation’s capital, fans and critics alike, with enthusiastic appreciation or grudging admiration depending on their perspectives, are taking note of just how much he got done in his time in the Obama administration.

The effective dismantling of the lender-based guaranteed loan program, which was made possible by several environmental factors as well as Shireman’s political skills, was by far the signature achievement. But he also made major progress in expanding a nascent federal program — for which Shireman had advocated in his previous job, as founder of the Institute for College Access and Success — that allows borrowers to repay student loans based on their post-graduation incomes. Financial aid experts also hailed the progress that the department, under Shireman, made in simplifying the financial aid application process.

And at Shireman’s urging, the department also took on a less obvious but also highly visible cause: tougher regulation of the for-profit higher education sector, which is expected to lead to the release any day now of new rules that could force some college companies to improve their student outcomes, cut their tuition prices, or face the loss of federal student aid funds.

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