Foxx again at the helm of House committee

Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-North Carolina) will again chair the House Education and the Workforce Committee. (Photo: House Education and the Workforce Committee archive)

Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-North Carolina) will again head the House committee in charge of overseeing education and workforce issues.

The House Steering Committee on Monday selected Foxx to lead the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, which was the committee’s name when Foxx previously chaired the panel from 2017 to 2019. When Democrats took control of the House and Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Virginia) became committee chair, Foxx served as the panel’s minority leader. (Scott will once again serve as his party’s ranking member on the committee.)

Foxx, who won the post over challenger Rep. Tim Walberg of Michigan, didn’t waste time after the announcement on Monday in saying she planned to review the Biden administration’s education and workforce regulatory agenda.

“To officials in the Biden administration: think about investing in a parking space on Capitol Hill — you will be here often,” she said in a release. “Conducting vigorous and sustained oversight of the federal government, especially the Departments of Education and Labor, will be among my top priorities. We must stop this administration’s reckless and destructive regulatory agenda. In two short years, the Biden administration erected innumerable hurdles to the American Dream, but I am committed to tearing those hurdles down.”

Washington Watch: This Week in Washington

On Tuesday, Foxx blasted the administration’s newly proposed regulations to revamp the U.S. Education Department’s income-driven repayment (IDR) plans, calling it “a repeat of the same playbook that got us into this college affordability crisis in the first place.” Adding: “Because President Biden couldn’t get his radical free college agenda through Congress, he has resorted to doing it through the backdoor by executive fiat.”

In announcing the IDR plan on Tuesday, the department said it is also drafting a proposed gainful employment regulation that would nix federal aid to career training programs that fail to provide sufficient financial value and require warnings for borrowers who attend any program that leaves graduates with excessive debts.

“The same regulatory package will also include proposals to strengthen the conditions that can be placed on institutions that fail to meet the requirements of the Higher Education Act or exhibit signs of risk,” the department added.

Support for short-term Pell

Foxx has been a vocal critic of President Joe Biden’s loan cancellation policies and in September outlined her own vision for higher education policy, as reflected in part in the REAL Reform Act introduced by Republicans in August. That bill aimed to make major changes to federal student loan programs and expand Pell Grant eligibility to certain short-term programs.

Foxx has also criticized the cost of higher education, often noting that a college is not for everyone and citing the need for skilled workers in good-paying career and technical jobs.

Foxx — who spent most of her career as a teacher and administrator in North Carolina’s higher education system, including president of Mayland Community College from 1987 to 1994 — has long supported short-term programs as ramps to higher education. When Republicans proposed a bill in 2017 to reauthorize the Higher Education Act that would have, among other things, allowed students to tap Pell grants to pay for short-term education programs, she noted that certain short-term programs can be the first step on a pathway to a baccalaureate and other higher degrees.

“When I was a community college president, I pushed over and over again for short-term certification within longer-term programs,” Foxx said in an interview in 2018 with Walter Bumphus, president and CEO of the American Association of Community Colleges. “What we see here [in the bill] is the ability for community colleges to recruit students into certificate programs, diploma programs and degree programs and start them out in some short-term programs that will lead into those longer programs.”

Alternatives to registered apprenticeships

Foxx has also supported alternatives to registered apprenticeships, noting burdensome red tape that employers often cite as a reason for not developing more apprenticeships. She has criticized the Biden administration for pulling the plug on “industry-recognized apprenticeship” programs that were promoted by the Trump administration and would have loosened guidelines to participate in federally supported apprenticeship efforts.

“The skills gap is fueling the current worker shortage, but instead of making the workforce system more responsive to employer needs, the Biden administration has doubled down on burdensome registered apprenticeships while shuttering the industry-recognized apprenticeship program. This is not something to be proud of,” Foxx said in a House hearing last summer on the U.S. Labor Department’s policies and priorities.

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.
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