Fattah Could Have Avoided Some Trouble Through Possible Student Loan Repayment

Fattah helped create the Student Loan Repayment for staff and is now under fire for his own student loan mishandling. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Rep. Chaka Fattah, D-Pa., was one of five members present in July 2002 when the House Administration Committee made the Student Loan Repayment Program a reality for the House of Representatives.  

Perhaps, in hindsight, he should have allowed members of Congress — not just full-time staff — to participate in the program. Fattah is charged with 29 counts of racketeering conspiracy, bribery and wire fraud. The allegations include a consultant making 34 successful loan payments on behalf of his son, Chaka Fattah Jr., to pay down his debt from Drexel University.  

Had members of Congress been allowed to enroll in the same student loan reimbursement program their staff is eligible for, Fattah could have taken out a Parents PLUS loan, a federal student loan in his name but designated for Fattah Jr.’s education. He could have enrolled his office in the Student Loan Repayment Program and participated himself, receiving up to $10,000 a year toward the debt .  

Roll Call’s Wealth of Congress ranked Fattah at 530 out of 538 in 2014, with a negative net worth of  $700,000. He did not list his bank account on his financial disclosure form in his 2015 filing, which includes mortgage debt and other debt.  

Most of his listed assets are from his 401K. He was included in Roll Call’s 10 poorest members . He, like millions of other Americans, would have struggled to pay for college, especially a private school such as Drexel, where tuition can run up to $46,000 a year annually.  

The Student Loan Repayment Program was designed to allow more people who choose public service to have help repaying student loan debts. It seems Fattah, himself a champion of liberal education policies, could have benefitted from it.  

Along with members of Congress, senators and political appointees at federal agencies are not allowed to participate in the federal Student Loan Repayment Programs.  

Meredith Dake contributed to this report.