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Cardona defends Education Department budget proposal, fields questions about repayment pause

Cardona defends Education Department budget proposal, fields questions about repayment pause

Higher Ed Dive

Jeremy Bauer-Wolf
May 11, 2023
Dive Brief:
  • U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona defended the White House’s fiscal 2024 budget proposal, which includes $90 billion in discretionary spending for his agency, before a Senate subcommittee Thursday.
  • Cardona reiterated the timeline to the Senate Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies for when the Education Department intends to restart student loan payments. The federal government has yet to lift the pause it implemented during the early months of the coronavirus pandemic.
  • Senators also wanted to know how the Education Department intends to invest in career and technical ed, and how the agency could adapt its financial aid, like federal Pell Grants, to allow more students to enroll in such programs.
Dive Insight:
In March, President Joe Biden issued his spending plan, which conservatives immediately declared dead on arrival. While the budget proposal has no chance of passing Congress as drafted, it signals the administration’s education priorities.
That includes sending $2.7 billion to the Office of Federal Student Aid, $620 million more than in fiscal 2023. The proposed FSA funding is key as the Biden administration attempts to rework the beleaguered student loan system, putting in new regulations that would shape it and restart monthly loan payments.
Pundits have grown concerned that a dearth of FSA funding could complicate this effort.
Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, a West Virginia Republican and ranking member on the subcommittee, told Cardona during Thursday’s hearing that the administration’s communication should be clearer around the repayment freeze and its end date.
She called on the secretary to be “more specific” about the transition. Her comments came amid news reports that loan servicers are struggling financially, including one, Nelnet, which has laid off hundreds of employees.
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