(a) Establishment and purpose

(1) Establishment

There is established in the Department a Performance-Based Organization (hereafter referred to as the “PBO”) which shall be a discrete management unit responsible for managing the administrative and oversight functions supporting the programs authorized under subchapter IV of this chapter, as specified in subsection (b).

(2) Purposes

Terms Used In 20 USC 1018

  • Equitable: Pertaining to civil suits in "equity" rather than in "law." In English legal history, the courts of "law" could order the payment of damages and could afford no other remedy. See damages. A separate court of "equity" could order someone to do something or to cease to do something. See, e.g., injunction. In American jurisprudence, the federal courts have both legal and equitable power, but the distinction is still an important one. For example, a trial by jury is normally available in "law" cases but not in "equity" cases. Source: U.S. Courts
  • individual: shall include every infant member of the species homo sapiens who is born alive at any stage of development. See 1 USC 8
  • officer: includes any person authorized by law to perform the duties of the office. See 1 USC 1
  • Oversight: Committee review of the activities of a Federal agency or program.

The purposes of the PBO are–

(A) to improve service to students and other participants in the student financial assistance programs authorized under subchapter IV, including making those programs more understandable to students and their parents;

(B) to reduce the costs of administering those programs;

(C) to increase the accountability of the officials responsible for administering the operational aspects of these programs;

(D) to provide greater flexibility in the management and administration of the Federal student financial assistance programs;

(E) to integrate the information systems supporting the Federal student financial assistance programs;

(F) to implement an open, common, integrated system for the delivery of student financial assistance under subchapter IV; and

(G) to develop and maintain a student financial assistance system that contains complete, accurate, and timely data to ensure program integrity.

(b) General authority

(1) Authority of Secretary

Notwithstanding any other provision of this part, the Secretary shall maintain responsibility for the development and promulgation of policy and regulations relating to the programs of student financial assistance under subchapter IV. In the exercise of its functions, the PBO shall be subject to the direction of the Secretary. The Secretary shall–

(A) request the advice of, and work in cooperation with, the Chief Operating Officer in developing regulations, policies, administrative guidance, or procedures affecting the Federal student financial assistance programs authorized under subchapter IV;

(B) request cost estimates from the Chief Operating Officer for system changes required by specific policies proposed by the Secretary; and

(C) assist the Chief Operating Officer in identifying goals for–

(i) the administration of the systems used to administer the Federal student financial assistance programs authorized under subchapter IV; and

(ii) the updating of such systems to current technology.

(2) PBO functions

Subject to paragraph (1), the PBO shall be responsible for the administration of Federal student financial assistance programs authorized under subchapter IV, excluding the development of policy relating to such programs but including the following:

(A) The administrative, accounting, and financial management functions for the Federal student financial assistance programs authorized under subchapter IV, including–

(i) the collection, processing, and transmission of data to students, institutions, lenders, State agencies, and other authorized parties;

(ii) the design and technical specifications for software development and procurement for systems supporting the Federal student financial assistance programs authorized under subchapter IV;

(iii) all software and hardware acquisitions and all information technology contracts related to the administration and management of student financial assistance under subchapter IV;

(iv) all aspects of contracting for the information and financial systems supporting the Federal student financial assistance programs authorized under subchapter IV;

(v) providing all customer service, training, and user support related to the administration of the Federal student financial assistance programs authorized under subchapter IV; and

(vi) ensuring the integrity of the Federal student financial assistance programs authorized under subchapter IV.


(B) Annual development of a budget for the activities and functions of the PBO, in consultation with the Secretary, and for consideration and inclusion in the Department’s annual budget submission.

(3) Additional functions

The Secretary may allocate to the PBO such additional functions as the Secretary and the Chief Operating Officer determine are necessary or appropriate to achieve the purposes of the PBO.

(4) Independence

Subject to paragraph (1), in carrying out its functions, the PBO shall exercise independent control of its budget allocations and expenditures, personnel decisions and processes, procurements, and other administrative and management functions.

(5) Audits and review

The PBO shall be subject to the usual and customary Federal audit procedures and to review by the Inspector General of the Department.

(6) Changes

(A) In general

The Secretary and the Chief Operating Officer shall consult concerning the effects of policy, market, or other changes on the ability of the PBO to achieve the goals and objectives established in the performance plan described in subsection (c).

(B) Revisions to agreement

The Secretary and the Chief Operating Officer may revise the annual performance agreement described in subsection (d)(4) in light of policy, market, or other changes that occur after the Secretary and the Chief Operating Officer enter into the agreement.

(c) Performance plan, report, and briefing

(1) Performance plan

(A) In general

Each year, the Secretary and Chief Operating Officer shall agree on, and make available to the public, a performance plan for the PBO for the succeeding 5 years that establishes measurable goals and objectives for the organization.

(B) Consultation

In developing the 5-year performance plan and any revision to the plan, the Secretary and the Chief Operating Officer shall consult with students, institutions of higher education, Congress, lenders, the Advisory Committee on Student Financial Assistance, and other interested parties not less than 30 days prior to the implementation of the performance plan or revision.

(C) Areas

The plan shall include a concise statement of the goals for a modernized system for the delivery of student financial assistance under subchapter IV and identify action steps necessary to achieve such goals. The plan shall address the PBO’s responsibilities in the following areas:

(i) Improving service

Improving service to students and other participants in student financial aid programs authorized under under 1 subchapter IV, including making those programs more understandable to students and their parents.

(ii) Reducing costs

Reducing the costs of administering those programs.

(iii) Improvement and integration of support systems

Improving and integrating the systems that support those programs.

(iv) Delivery and information system

Developing open, common, and integrated systems for programs authorized under under 1 subchapter IV.

(v) Other areas

Any other areas identified by the Secretary.

(2) Annual report

Each year, the Chief Operating Officer shall prepare and submit to Congress, through the Secretary, an annual report on the performance of the PBO, including an evaluation of the extent to which the PBO met the goals and objectives contained in the 5-year performance plan described in paragraph (1) for the preceding year. The annual report shall include the following:

(A) An independent financial audit of the expenditures of both the PBO and the programs administered by the PBO.

(B) Financial and performance requirements applicable to the PBO under the Chief Financial Officers Act of 1990 and the Government Performance and Results Act of 1993.

(C) The results achieved by the PBO during the year relative to the goals established in the organization’s performance plan.

(D) The evaluation rating of the performance of the Chief Operating Officer and senior managers under subsections (d)(4) and (e)(2), including the amounts of bonus compensation awarded to these individuals.

(E) Recommendations for legislative and regulatory changes to improve service to students and their families, and to improve program efficiency and integrity.

(F) Other such information as the Director of the Office of Management and Budget shall prescribe for performance based organizations.

(3) Consultation with stakeholders

The Chief Operating Officer, in preparing the report described in paragraph (2), shall establish appropriate means to consult with students, borrowers, institutions, lenders, guaranty agencies, secondary markets, and others involved in the delivery system of student aid under subchapter IV–

(A) regarding the degree of satisfaction with the delivery system; and

(B) to seek suggestions on means to improve the delivery system.

(4) Briefing on enforcement of student loan provisions

The Secretary shall, upon request, provide a briefing to the members of the authorizing committees on the steps the Department has taken to ensure–

(A) the integrity of the student loan programs; and

(B) that lenders and guaranty agencies are adhering to the requirements of subchapter IV.

(d) Chief Operating Officer

(1) Appointment

The management of the PBO shall be vested in a Chief Operating Officer who shall be appointed by the Secretary to a term of not less than 3 and not more than 5 years, and compensated without regard to chapters 33, 51, and 53 of title 5. The appointment shall be made on the basis of demonstrated management ability and expertise in information technology, including experience with financial systems, and without regard to political affiliation or activity.

(2) Reappointment

The Secretary may reappoint the Chief Operating Officer to subsequent terms of not less than 3 and not more than 5 years, so long as the performance of the Chief Operating Officer, as set forth in the performance agreement described in paragraph (4), is satisfactory.

(3) Removal

The Chief Operating Officer may be removed by–

(A) the President; or

(B) the Secretary, for misconduct or failure to meet performance goals set forth in the performance agreement in paragraph (4).


The President or Secretary shall communicate the reasons for any such removal to the authorizing committees.

(4) Performance agreement

(A) In general

Each year, the Secretary and the Chief Operating Officer shall enter into an annual performance agreement, that shall set forth measurable organization and individual goals for the Chief Operating Officer.

(B) Transmittal

The final agreement, and any revision to the final agreement, shall be transmitted to the authorizing committees, and made publicly available.

(5) Compensation

(A) In general

The Chief Operating Officer is authorized to be paid at an annual rate of basic pay not to exceed the maximum rate of basic pay for the Senior Executive Service under section 5382 of title 5, including any applicable locality-based comparability payment that may be authorized under section 5304(h)(2)(B) of such title. The compensation of the Chief Operating Officer shall be considered for purposes of section 207(c)(2)(A) of title 18 to be the equivalent of that described under clause (ii) of section 207(c)(2)(A) of such title.

(B) Bonus

In addition, the Chief Operating Officer may receive a bonus in an amount that does not exceed 50 percent of such annual rate of basic pay, based upon the Secretary’s evaluation of the Chief Operating Officer’s performance in relation to the goals set forth in the performance agreement described in paragraph (4).

(C) Payment

Payment of a bonus under subparagraph (B) may be made to the Chief Operating Officer only to the extent that such payment does not cause the Chief Operating Officer’s total aggregate compensation in a calendar year to equal or exceed the amount of the President’s salary under section 102 of title 3.

(e) Senior management

(1) Appointment

(A) In general

The Chief Operating Officer may appoint such senior managers as that officer determines necessary without regard to the provisions of title 5 governing appointments in the competitive service.

(B) Compensation

The senior managers described in subparagraph (A) may be paid without regard to the provisions of chapter 51 and subchapter III of chapter 53 of such title relating to classification and General Schedule pay rates.

(2) Performance agreement

Each year, the Chief Operating Officer and each senior manager appointed under this subsection shall enter into an annual performance agreement that sets forth measurable organization and individual goals. The agreement shall be subject to review and renegotiation at the end of each term.

(3) Compensation

(A) In general

A senior manager appointed under this subsection may be paid at an annual rate of basic pay of not more than the maximum rate of basic pay for the Senior Executive Service under section 5382 of title 5, including any applicable locality-based comparability payment that may be authorized under section 5304(h)(2)(C) of such title. The compensation of a senior manager shall be considered for purposes of section 207(c)(2)(A) of title 18 to be the equivalent of that described under clause (ii) of section 207(c)(2)(A) of such title.

(B) Bonus

In addition, a senior manager may receive a bonus in an amount such that the manager’s total annual compensation does not exceed 125 percent of the maximum rate of basic pay for the Senior Executive Service, including any applicable locality-based comparability payment, based upon the Chief Operating Officer’s evaluation of the manager’s performance in relation to the goals set forth in the performance agreement described in paragraph (2).

(4) Removal

A senior manager shall be removable by the Chief Operating Officer, or by the Secretary if the position of Chief Operating Officer is vacant.

(f) Student Loan Ombudsman

(1) Appointment

The Chief Operating Officer, in consultation with the Secretary, shall appoint a Student Loan Ombudsman to provide timely assistance to borrowers of loans made, insured, or guaranteed under subchapter IV by performing the functions described in paragraph (3).

(2) Public information

The Chief Operating Officer shall disseminate information about the availability and functions of the Ombudsman to students, borrowers, and potential borrowers, as well as institutions of higher education, lenders, guaranty agencies, loan servicers, and other participants in those student loan programs.

(3) Functions of Ombudsman

The Ombudsman shall–

(A) in accordance with regulations of the Secretary, receive, review, and attempt to resolve informally complaints from borrowers of loans described in paragraph (1), including, as appropriate, attempts to resolve such complaints within the Department of Education and with institutions of higher education, lenders, guaranty agencies, loan servicers, and other participants in the loan programs described in paragraph (1); and

(B) compile and analyze data on borrower complaints and make appropriate recommendations.

(4) Report

Each year, the Ombudsman shall submit a report to the Chief Operating Officer, for inclusion in the annual report under subsection (c)(2), that describes the activities, and evaluates the effectiveness of the Ombudsman during the preceding year.

(g) Personnel flexibility

(1) Personnel ceilings

The PBO shall not be subject to any ceiling relating to the number or grade of employees.

(2) Administrative flexibility

The Chief Operating Officer shall work with the Office of Personnel Management to develop and implement personnel flexibilities in staffing, classification, and pay that meet the needs of the PBO, subject to compliance with title 5.

(3) Excepted service

The Chief Operating Officer may appoint, without regard to the provisions of title 5 governing appointments in the competitive service, technical and professional employees to administer the functions of the PBO. These employees may be paid without regard to the provisions of chapter 51 and subchapter III of chapter 53 of such title relating to classification and General Schedule pay rates.

(h) Establishment of fair and equitable system for measuring staff performance

The PBO shall establish an annual performance management system, subject to compliance with title 5, and consistent with applicable provisions of law and regulations, which strengthens the effectiveness of the PBO by providing for establishing goals or objectives for individual, group, or organizational performance (or any combination thereof), consistent with the performance plan of the PBO and its performance planning procedures, including those established under the Government Performance and Results Act of 1993, and communicating such goals or objectives to employees.

(i) Authorization of appropriations

The Secretary shall allocate from funds made available under section 1087h of this title such funds as are appropriate to the functions assumed by the PBO. In addition, there are authorized to be appropriated such sums as may be necessary to carry out the purposes of this part.