NAICU Washington Update

Secretary Cardona Emphasizes Support for Doubling Pell During Congressional Hearing

May 27, 2022

The House Committee on Education and Labor held a hearing with Secretary Cardona this week to learn more about the Department’s goals and the budget priorities of the Administration.  During his testimony, Secretary Cardona touched on a number of key higher education issues, including doubling the Pell Grant maximum, access and affordability, and the importance of supporting Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), Tribally Controlled Colleges and Universities (TCCUs), and Minority-Serving Institutions (MSIs). 

After opening the hearing with a moment of silence for the lives lost in the shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, TX, Chairman Bobby Scott (D-VA) discussed the benefits of the COVID-19 relief funding in the American Rescue Plan, the steps the Department has taken to forgive student loans through the Public Service Loan Forgiveness temporary waiver program, and the need to increase the Pell Grant. 

Ranking Member Virginia Foxx’s (R-NC) opening statement also expressed how horrific and tragic the school shooting was and how we must be thoughtful about how we discuss and handle school safety and mental health issues. Rep. Foxx also expressed her disappointment in the Department’s efforts to forgive student loan debt, not stand up for parents, favor teachers’ unions, and abuse Title IX regulations. 

In his testimony, Secretary Cardona thanked Congress for the fiscal year (FY) 2022 appropriations funding bill and shared the FY 2023 proposed funding increases for the many programs impacting students, institutions of higher education, and the Department. Top on his list for higher education was a commitment to doubling the Pell Grant maximum.  He also mentioned several other education priorities for the Department, including: the importance of continuing to support students through the pandemic; addressing opportunity and achievement gaps; making higher education more inclusive and affordable; and supporting a diverse and talented educator workforce. Secretary Cardona also called for student aid eligibility for DREAMers and discussed the Department’s focus on overhauling the administration of the student aid programs, as well as its continued commitment to HBCUs, TCCUs, MSIs and low-resourced institutions.  Finally, he mentioned a commitment to strengthening the Office of Civil Rights.

While both Republicans and Democrats questioned the Secretary on issues regarding student loan forgiveness, Title IX regulations, and COVID-19 relief funding, members from the opposing parties were on opposite sides of the spectrum on all issues. The one issue where there was any agreement was that the school shooting at Robb Elementary was a very sad moment in our country and that mental health is an important part of the national conversation. 

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