Reporter’s notebook

  • Student loan repayment, forgiveness debated at House hearing
  • Expanding apprenticeships in North Carolina

Student loan repayment, forgiveness debated at House hearing

Student loan repayment and forgiveness were the focus of much of the higher education discussion at Thursday’s House hearing regarding the U.S. Education Department’s budget proposal for the upcoming fiscal year.

The school killings in Uvalde, Texas, earlier this week loomed over the House Education and Labor’s nearly four-hour hearing, where much of the questioning was rhetorical and divisive. Republicans pressed Education Secretary Miguel Cardona on the administration’s forthcoming plans to reduce or forgive student loans, noting that they believe it would include many students who can afford to repay their loans.

GOP lawmakers were particularly focused on the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program, to which the department has made temporary changes in order to expand access during the pandemic. They also questioned whether proposals to change income-driven repayment options would include graduate students, arguing that is not the point of the program. Cardona countered that teachers, for example, have graduate degrees and are “woefully under-compensated” compared to peers in other fields with the same education levels. He added that ED wants to find ways to offer students better options for loan repayment to prevent them from falling into delinquency or default.

The hearing touched on other issues of interest to community colleges, including adult education to help prepare individuals for the workforce. There was considerable discussion about developing teacher education programs and making the career path more attractive as the country faces a crisis-level shortage of teachers. Cardona noted that he would like to develop a teacher pipeline in communities that would include apprenticeships for aspiring teachers and grow-your-own programs.

Committee members also briefly discussed increasing Pell Grant awards, career and technical education, proposals for gainful employment regulations, as well as charter schools, transgender participation in school sports and the use of emergency federal funding to help schools, colleges and students to cope with issues arising from the Covid pandemic.

Expanding apprenticeships in North Carolina

A one-time injection of up to $11.6 million aims to encourage small businesses in North Carolina to offer registered apprenticeships for individuals ages 16 to 25.

The North Carolina State Board of Community Colleges last week approved an allocation from the State Fiscal Recovery Funds to establish a temporary program to serve high school and non-high school apprentices, particularly in underserved areas.

Employers with qualifying apprentices will receive up to $2,000 per apprentice for onboarding and training, plus a 50% salary reimbursement on wages up to $15 per hour for non-high school students and $14 per hour for high school students, according to the board. In addition, colleges will receive up to $2,500 per apprentice for tuition, books, fees and supplies.

About the Author

Matthew Dembicki
Matthew Dembicki edits Community College Daily and serves as associate vice president of communications for the American Association of Community Colleges.