President Barack Obama’s Education Department said defaulting borrowers who quickly got their federally guaranteed student loans back on track couldn’t be slammed with a 16 percent collection fee. Last month, President Donald Trump’s Education Department said: Never mind.

It thus offered a windfall to the private companies that get to help run this government program. But it added to the burden of struggling borrowers.

The Obama administration set out its rule in a “Dear Colleague” letter in 2015. So, unlike a formal regulation, the rule didn’t have to be offered for public comment before it was issued. And that, the Trump administration said in the “Dear Colleague” letter rescinding the rule, was the problem: The rule “would have benefited from public input.”

Important regulations should go through the formal regulatory process. The public should be able to comment. But if the new administration’s only complaint about this fee was procedural, it should have said it was launching the formal process to re-issue the rule.

The public certainly commented when the rule was withdrawn. The comments were informal, but clear and powerful: The withdrawal of the rule generated so much outcry that the companies that are now allowed to charge the fee — known as guarantee agencies — quickly announced they won’t actually charge it.

That outcry was justified. This fee is inhumane: The people subject to it are already struggling with debt. Making the debt larger makes their problem worse.

The law gives defaulting borrowers one shot to rehabilitate their loans — and even arrange payment terms based on their income. It defeats the purpose to add a huge surcharge.

There’s no good reason to let the agencies charge so much. Collecting from people who quickly enter repayment agreements and keep them is not difficult or expensive. And there’s no free-market argument here: This isn’t a private contract; it’s a government program 26 companies are allowed to make money on. The question isn’t why regulate — it’s why not have the government take over the whole mess.

— Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Visitor logs should

be available

The announced policy that White House visitor logs won’t be made public has the Capitol astir. And it should. The White House is the people’s house. It’s not Trump Tower or Mar-a-Lago or one of Trump’s golf clubs.

Donald Trump is a temporary resident, and who comes and goes is the people’s business, period. President Barack Obama had an open policy for eight years wherein logs were released.

What’s up with Trump? His aides say the logs won’t be released until he’s been out of office for five years. That’s preposterous. Any president, if national security demands it, can not disclose visits that need to be kept secret for legitimate reasons.

This policy smacks of arrogance. No less than Tom Fitton, head of a conservative watchdog group, said, “This new secrecy policy undermines the rule of law and suggests this White House doesn’t want to be accountable to the American people.” Exactly.

And it prompts the question: what’s Trump hiding? Business associates and wheeler dealers? Lobbyists? Donors?

A policy that creates more questions than answers is a bad policy.

— The News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.)