Questions about student aid for summer programs, next FAFSA cycle

U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona testified Tuesday before the House Education and the Workforce Committee, which included a brief interruption by protesters. (Screenshot of streamed event)

A member of the House Education and the Workforce Committee on Tuesday asked U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona to focus on ensuring college students who are taking summer programs will have access to student aid as the department continues to get on track in processing federal student aid applications and data that colleges use to develop their student aid packages.

During a committee hearing on the U.S. Education Department’s (ED) proposed fiscal year 2025 budget, Rep. Glenn Grothman (R-Wisconsin) expressed concern about students in his state’s technical college system being able to get student aid for the summer term due to issues with completing and processing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). He said technical colleges in his district have told him they lacked ED guidance on how to advise students. Cardona replied that ED would provide that guidance and, if needed, FAFSA clinics in those communities.

Meanwhile, a bipartisan, bicameral group of lawmakers sent a letter Tuesday to Cardona expressing concerns that the next student aid application and processing cycle may potentially face similar delays. The letter noted that the department typically publishes a draft FAFSA for the next award year in February or March for comment, but ED staff has said it’s not ready to talk about it or any plans to add more consumer testing, which would help prevent future efforts. The 11 lawmakers asked ED to provide weekly updates on the 2025-26 FAFSA timeline beginning the first week of June and to have a beta version of the online FAFSA for the next cycle available for congressional review by September 9.

Political back and forth

Although a portion of questioning at the nearly four-hour hearing on Tuesday focused on FAFSA and other areas, such as Title IX proposed regulations and alleged foreign gifts and influence on U.S. colleges, the bulk and most contentious parts focused on the Biden administration’s plan for student loan forgiveness, college student protests and antisemitism on campuses. The hearing was interrupted briefly by protestors when Rep. Joe Wilson (R-South Carolina) was questioning Cardona about the department’s response to antisemitic activities on college campuses.

Related article: Not holding back on FAFSA

Republicans on the committee reiterated their argument that ED was too focused on student loan forgiveness, which led to prolonged problems in implementing and launching the new FAFSA form and process. Democrats countered that the department needs more funding to hire more staff to address issues such as civil rights reviews and charged that Republicans have politicized the budget hearings.

“Complaining about a problem is not a solution. At the end of the day, if we want to reduce rising tensions on college campuses, we need to advance meaningful legislation to actually address the problem,” ranking member Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Virginia) said in his opening remarks. “Passing meaningless resolutions week after week and turning the committee room into a political spectacle only seems to have exacerbated the problems instead of defusing them.”

Questions about prospective Perkins regs

Rep. Glenn “GT” Thompson (R-Pennsylvania) asked Cardona about ED’s reasons for prospective new regulations pertaining to the Perkins career and technical education (CTE) program, noting that the department has a notice of proposed rule-making scheduled to be issued in August. He said the latest revamp of the Perkins law has been implemented for six years already, and states are now crafting their Perkins plans for the next four years.

“Can you explain what aspect of the law your department is suddenly not able to administer after six years of successful enactment and having never issued regulations on Perkins prior?” Thompson asked.

Cardona said that he would like to see more more school districts broaden the use of CTE opportunities, especially in learn-and-earn and apprenticeships for high school students.

“I think that Perkins in underutilized. I think we need to do a better job making it the rule not the exception, that we provide pathways for students,” he said.

Related article: GOP again targets proposed apprenticeship regs

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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