Education Secretary Miguel Cardona and Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-North Carolina), who chairs the House Education and the Workforce Committee, have agreed to work together to try crafting a bipartisan approach to extend Pell Grant eligibility to certain short-term workforce education programs.
During a committee hearing on Tuesday to discuss the Biden administration’s education policies and fiscal year 2024 budget proposal, both sides of the aisle seemed to find some common ground. In response to Rep. Lori Chavez-DeRemer (R-Oregon) asking Cardona whether he would work with committee members to examine expanding Pell to certain quality short-term programs, the secretary said he is open to the idea.
“I’ve frequently said that if we’re asking our schools and districts to evolve, we need to evolve also,” Cardona said. “I am interested in looking at ways to expand it to short-term Pell, with increased accountability to make sure that the students are getting a benefit from it. But I am open to it.”
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Foxx zeroed in on that comment and said there seems to be an opportunity for a bipartisan approach.
“We think one area of bipartisan support that we find in the committee is support for Workforce Pell, or some call it short-term Pell,” she said.
Foxx noted that she and ranking member Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Virginia) have both introduced short-term Pell legislation, neither of which would exclude for-profits or any other types of institutions. Foxx emphasized she wants to explore allowing all kinds of education — including for-profits — to be included for Workforce Pell, which Cardona seemed open to.
“My belief is if a provider can meet the guardrails, who are we to take away high-quality education options for the students?” she said.
Kudos to community colleges
During the hearing, several Republicans criticized the Biden administration on myriad issues, including student loan repayment proposals and transgender issues related to Title IX, especially in sports and access to bathrooms. In addressing the criticisms of ED’s K-12 and postsecondary policies, Cardona said he preferred to build on potential common ground with committee members, such as career and technical education and postsecondary education options. He pitched the president’s proposal for “universal” community college that would cover two years of community college.
Several lawmakers, including Rep. Susan Wild (D-Pennsylvania), touted the benefits of public two-year colleges for students and their communities. Cardona noted as an example the public-private partnership between Intel and central Ohio community colleges, such as Columbus State Community College, that will bring jobs to the capital area and develop the needed workforce.
“Community colleges are economic drivers in their communities,” the secretary said.
Potential impact of cuts
Foxx opened the hearing by targeting the administration’s student loan repayment proposals, which include student loan debt cancellation, and ED policies on transgender issues related to Title IX. She said implementing the student debt plans would cost about $1 trillion. Several Republicans on the committee argued it is unfair to require Americans who didn’t attend college to bear those costs. Rep. Rick Allen (R-Georgia) said the plan would cost each resident in his district about $3,527.
Democrats on the committee focused on the potential effects of Republicans’ plans to reduce the federal deficit, noting they would slash funding for many critical education programs, including Pell grants. Cardona also said the reductions would result in cuts of $262 million for the popular TRIO programs, which lawmakers on both sides of the aisle support.