House Committee Spars Over Student Loans at Hearing Focusing on TCU Investments

By Hugh T. Ferguson, NASFAA Senior Staff Reporter

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.”

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

Ben R | 7/20/2022 2:5:59 PM

I think it just means they want to rein in over borrowing so that 1) students aren't left with loans they can't actually repay and 2) taxpayers are not absorbing the lion's share of the loss on student loans. Not the topic of the hearing, but it was a valid point.

Tuition isn't necessarily inflated because of the loans, but indirect cost borrowing gets inflated due to the ease of access to loans and the federal definition of cost of attendance. If borrowing were limited to direct cost in certain circumstances, such as mode of course delivery, much of the over borrowing problem would go away.

David S | 7/20/2022 10:40:11 AM

Make no mistake folks...when a politician says that financial aid "creates an incentive for higher tuition costs," it means they want to drastically cut federal aid spending. When they say it leads to poor student outcomes, it means they are equating financial need and the enrollment of unqualified students. All of this adds up to a philosophy that only those who can afford it out of pocket should be on our campuses.

And as for their beliefs that aid availability increases prices (the so-called Bennett Hypothesis) and that aid recipients perform poorly, they have no proof whatsoever that either is true. This is contrary to everything we stand for as a profession. Please consider that on Election Day.

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