Foxx on Cardona’s Tenure: ‘On All the Broad Strokes, You Have a Failing Grade’

By Hugh T. Ferguson, NASFAA Managing Editor

Congress continued to carry out its oversight of the Department of Education’s (ED) handling of the 2024-25 FAFSA on Tuesday, as the House Committee on Education and the Workforce conducted a wide-ranging hearing on President Joe Biden’s fiscal year 2025 budget request. During the hearing Education Secretary Miguel Cardona received pointed questions on the administration’s priorities.

While Republicans and Democrats were rarely in agreement over the department’s performance and held widely differing views of Cardona’s record, both expressed concern over the current 2024-25 FAFSA and the upcoming aid cycles.

At the outset Cardona pledged to answer questions related to the budget and sought to engage in conversation where officials could find common ground to invest in education and make higher education more affordable.

Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.), chairwoman of the committee, gave Cardona numerous failing grades for his tenure and once more called for his resignation, citing the secretary’s “lack of moral clarity” over ongoing campus protests.

When it came to the FAFSA, Foxx remained critical of Cardona’s leadership, taking ED to task for glitches and errors associated with the 2024-25 rollout. She also cited a recent NASFAA Quick Scan Survey as an indicator of concerning trends for the upcoming enrollment cycle.

“A financial aid administrators’ survey of schools just last week found that over 30% of schools have still not even begun to package aid offers, thanks to your delays,” Foxx said. "FAFSA should have been a top priority. Instead, your actions proved time and again that it wasn’t.”

Foxx went on to criticize the department’s handling of ongoing campus protests and argued that administration officials have done little to address concerns over campus safety.

Further, Foxx argued that ED should work to ensure students who are participating in campus protests be barred from any form of student loan cancellation and continued to criticize ED’s debt relief programs, including the SAVE plan and efforts to implement debt cancellation through negotiated rulemaking.

The Office of Federal Student Aid (FSA) was also top of mind for Foxx, who has long been critical of outgoing Chief Operating Officer Richard Cordray. In her questioning, she called on Cardona to find a replacement who has deep knowledge of operations and lending expertise.

Cardona committed to working with Foxx on a process to find a replacement once Cordray formally steps down at the end of June.

Foxx also took issue with recent annual audits of ED and sought updated materials from Cardona to respond to findings that led KPMG — an independent certified public accounting firm contracted by ED’s Office of Inspector General — to decline to render an opinion of ED’s fiscal year 2022 financial statements.

Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.), ranking member of the committee, also expressed concern about the FAFSA and called on Cardona to work expeditiously to course correct so students are not adversely impacted when determining their college enrollment.

“We expect you to get that back on track as quickly as possible,” Scott said of the rollout.

Scott also took issue with Republicans' priorities and argued that previously proposed cuts to ED’s budget would only worsen disparities for vulnerable student populations.

“If we want to reduce rising tensions on college campuses, we need to advance meaningful legislation to actually address the problem,” Scott said. “Our students deserve more than to be used as pawns in politicians’ games and fundraising schemes.”

Rep. Gregorio Sablan (D-Northern Mariana Islands) also took issue with the FAFSA rollout, noting that the Mariana Islands were kept out of the system, requiring students to declare themselves as foreign students in order to access the form. While ED has provided a workaround for this year, Sablan expressed concern about the 2025-26 cycle. Cardona pledged to address the issue.

The sharp critique of the FAFSA rollout in Tuesday’s hearing followed the submission of a bipartisan bi-cameral letter, which also expressed growing alarm about the 2025-26 FAFSA rollout with concerns that ED is already falling behind.

“We request that you provide weekly updates on the timeline, consumer testing, and bug fixes on the 2025-2026 FAFSA to our staff beginning the first week in June,” the letter reads. “We also request the Department provide a list of any current errors or issues with the form that require resolution before next FAFSA cycle to us by July 8, 2024 and the planned timeline for resolution of those issues.”

The letter was signed by both Foxx and Scott, as well as leaders of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees, and the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee.

In response to questions over the department’s readiness for the 2025-26 FAFSA to launch on October 1, Cardona said it was his “expectation” that the FAFSA will be ready to go, and that he is making sure staff knows “this is the highest priority.”

During the hearing, which lasted nearly four hours, members also focused on college campus protests, the student loan portfolio, foreign gift reporting, the department's regulatory agenda, and more education-related issues that touched on the totality of K-12 and higher education systems.


Publication Date: 5/8/2024

Melissa H | 5/9/2024 12:18:18 PM

"Foxx argued that ED should work to ensure students who are participating in campus protests be barred from any form of student loan cancellation"

It's hard to take what Foxx says seriously when unconstitutional disregard for the first amendment is part of the same conversation.

Kim J | 5/8/2024 2:56:02 PM

Trying to stay out of politics and any party affiliation, but Justin's testimony in the hearing that "there would be a steep price to pay" rings loud and clear. I am in my 31st year of higher education and I have never witnessed a more inept leadership team. The commitment and dedication my FA teams and my colleagues across the country gives witness to who the true heroes are ...

Thomas K | 5/8/2024 10:17:56 AM

He should resign. A complete failure. All be does is blather on about diversity like all sanctimonious liberals.

David S | 5/8/2024 9:19:29 AM

What input is needed from Virginia Foxx as ED prepares to hire a replacement for Richard Cordray? Why does the Secretary need to work with her on this?

You must be logged in to comment on this page.

Comments Disclaimer: NASFAA welcomes and encourages readers to comment and engage in respectful conversation about the content posted here. We value thoughtful, polite, and concise comments that reflect a variety of views. Comments are not moderated by NASFAA but are reviewed periodically by staff. Users should not expect real-time responses from NASFAA. To learn more, please view NASFAA’s complete Comments Policy.

Related Content

Today's News for June 18, 2024


ED Announces College Board President to Oversee Launch of 2025-26 FAFSA


View Desktop Version