By Hugh T. Ferguson, NASFAA Senior Staff Reporter
Following a week dominated by another school shooting, Education Secretary Miguel Cardona on Thursday met with the House Education and Labor Committee to update the panel on the department’s priorities — heavily focusing on the help that educators need in order to prevent mass shootings — and also dug into the administration’s continued efforts to implement a wide range of investments in higher education programs.
Cardona underscored that his remarks would seek to address budget priorities, but that he would not let ongoing crises allow for the “desensitization” to the murder of children and demanded federal leaders do more to help educators prevent the continued recurrence of school shootings.
The discussion of the budget focused primarily on the Biden administration’s efforts to respond to the pandemic, invest in higher education programming, concerns on agency oversight, and the ballooning student loan portfolio.
House Education and Labor Committee Chairman Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.) largely commended efforts made by the administration to continue with the loan moratorium and evaluation of additional policy proposals to address the growing loan portfolio, and urged the administration to continue investing in programs to promote educational attainment.
“We need to make sure that we significantly increase the Pell Grant to restore it to its historic value; eliminate or significantly reduce interest on loans; make the Public Service Loan Forgiveness and interest-based programs more generous; promote short-term Pell so you can use your Pell Grant for job training programs as well as college courses that lead to a degree,” Scott said. “We need to make sure that those are just the beginning to make sure college is accessible to all.”
Ranking Member Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.) was acutely critical of ED for not responding to oversight questions that Republicans had raised concerning the student loan portfolio and potential implementation of student loan cancellation, as well as Federal Student Aid (FSA) allowing for data sharing with Facebook, and said leadership was being “unhelpful and downright obstructive at times.”
Foxx also sought details on implementation of the department's “fresh start” plan, which would bring borrowers currently in default back into good standing before the repayment pause ends.
Cardona said more details would be forthcoming, but Foxx expressed concern that potential implementation could have a negative economic impact depending on how the policy is carried out by ED.
Foxx also continued to press Cardona over news reports that found FSA inadvertently shared student and parent FAFSA data with Facebook and wanted to know when the department would provide Congress with an update on efforts to protect student data.
In response, Cardona said ED was very concerned about the inadvertent data sharing and would provide the committee with more information in the coming weeks to ensure that thorough oversight is conducted and that more is done to protect student data.
Stay tuned to Today’s News for more details from ED on their priorities for higher education.
Publication Date: 5/27/2022
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