During a congressional hearing on Tuesday that gathered leaders of tribal colleges and universities (TCUs), committee Republicans took issue with the lack of time dedicated to providing oversight on the federal student loan portfolio.
The House Education and Labor Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Investment on Tuesday convened the panel, which discussed the role TCUs play in supporting American Indian and Alaska Native students, but during opening remarks Republicans took issue with Democrats’ lack of urgency at addressing rising higher education costs and student loan debt.
“Republicans value the role of all minority-serving institutions, including tribal colleges and universities,” said Ranking Member Mariannette Miller-Meeks (R-Iowa). “But my colleagues and I have participated in the two previous hearings on minority-serving institutions, and today's the third, yet the Democrats have held no hearing dedicated to fixing the spiraling student loan catastrophe.”
Meeks alleged that Democrats were aiming to cede congressional authority to the White House, which has floated the potential for broad student loan cancellation, and using the negotiated rulemaking process to implement changes that could not pass the legislative branch.
“It's time for Democrats to do what's right for the American people,” Miller-Meeks said. “All students, including those at TCUs, are impacted by our broken postsecondary education system, which creates an incentive for higher tuition costs, poor student outcomes, and unaffordable debt for many Americans.”
In response, subcommittee chairwoman Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (D-Ore.) said it was disappointing that Miller-Meeks used her remarks to gloss over the premise of the day’s hearing.
“TCUs have a unique mission of not only educating native communities, but also preserving and advancing Native American culture and traditions,” Bonamici said. “Instead, the minority [party] has decided to disregard the historic nature of this hearing, and instead try to co-opt this hearing to discuss reforms to the student loan program even though we have already had multiple hearings on the topic. I'm also concerned because only one TCU participates in the loan program.”
Throughout the hearing, members sought feedback on the student loan portfolio and also highlighted how TCUs have played a key role in Native education.
“Beyond providing a culturally-based education and fostering a sense of belonging, TCUs strive to help Native students complete their education by taking steps to meet basic needs and reducing financial barriers. And the need is great,” Bonamici said. “A survey of several TCUs in 2019 found that 80% of their students experienced food insecurity, housing insecurity, or homelessness. To help address these barriers to completion, TCUs have built successful in-house programs to support the basic needs of their students.”
Chair @RepBonamici: TCUs were founded, in part, to help combat cultural erasure after the systematic decimation of Native communities.— Committee on Education & Labor (@EdLaborCmte) July 19, 2022
TCUs now play a critical role in protecting and preserving culture and traditions.
Earlier this year the committee also looked at the needs of Hispanic-serving institutions (HSIs) and minority-serving institutions (MSIs) as part of a series of hearings aimed at exploring the needs of underserved students.
Publication Date: 7/20/2022