Washington Update

Secretary Cardona Testifies in Senate on Budget

June 10, 2022

Secretary Miguel Cardona appeared before the Senate Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies appropriations subcommittee to discuss the FY 2023 budget request for the Department of Education and outline the agency’s priorities. However, he first focused his oral testimony on the young lives lost in the recent school shootings in Uvalde, TX, taking time at the beginning of his remarks to read each victim’s name.
His written testimony highlighted the Administration’s budget request for K-12 education, special education, adult and career education, and higher education. He made a particular point of noting the importance of the request to increase the Pell Grant maximum by $1,775 this year.
Almost every senator who participated in the hearing mentioned the 50th anniversary of the Pell Grant program and the bipartisan support the program has enjoyed over the decades. During her opening remarks, Chair Patty Murray (D-WA) mentioned that she was a Pell Grant recipient and that it was only fitting to have the request to double Pell during the anniversary year. And Ranking Member Roy Blunt (R-MO), who is retiring this year, mentioned he was the first to finish college in his family, and that he was proud of the $1,120 increase in the grant he has been able to support during his tenure on the committee.
However, throughout the hearing, senators focused higher education questions on what many referred to as the “broken student loan system” and college costs. Democrats generally support extending the student loan repayment pause until 2023, while Republicans expressed their concerns about the cost of the uncollected payments that will be passed on to Americans without student loans and questioned the legality of President Biden’s proposal to forgive student loan debt. Secretary Cardona explained to the committee that the Department works closely with the Federal Reserve to determine the repayment pauses. 
He then discussed steps the Department is taking to modernize the student aid system with improved services, FAFSA simplification, and PSLF forgiveness and highlighted updates made to the College Scorecard to help students find the best fit college with the best return on investment.
Senators also questioned Secretary Cardona about the state of mental health services at colleges, and the provision of basic needs, such as food, housing and transportation. Secretary Cardona explained that the funds provided through the Higher Education Emergency Fund (HEERF) were able to address many of the pandemic related needs in these areas, and the FY 2023 budget requests additional funding to continue to provide college students these supports.

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