Secretary Cardona Shares Administration’s Vision For the Future

While Attempting to Answer Questions on the Present and Recent Past

Earlier today, the House Committee on Education & the Workforce held a hearing entitled “Examining the Education Department’s Policies, Priorities, and FY 2023 Financial Audit Failure.” The sole witness to testify at the hearing was Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona who focused his primary remarks on the Biden-Harris Administration’s Fiscal Year 2025 Budget requesting “additional, critical resources” for priorities including “4) Expand(ed) Access to Higher Education by Reducing Costs for Students and Investing in Student Supports.”

The Administration’s Higher Education Vision
Building upon this general statement, Secretary Cardona provided the following testimony on the Administration’s vision for Postsecondary Education:


“Most well-paying jobs today require some education beyond high school. But as college costs continue to rise, too many students and families are finding it harder to afford that path. And despite all the progress we have made, we still face serious gaps in college completion and attainment based on race and income. Our budget request invests in postsecondary success for all students, improving college affordability, retention, and completion.

To expand equitable and affordable access to an education beyond high school, the Budget proposes to increase the maximum Pell Grant by $100 for the 2025-2026 award year building on successful efforts to raise the discretionary maximum award by $900 since the beginning of the Biden-Harris Administration. The Budget also increases the mandatory Pell add-on by $650 for a total maximum award of $8,145 for students attending public and nonprofit institutions. This increase keeps the Administration on its path to double the maximum Pell Grant at such institutions by 2029. The Administration continues to support expanding all federal student aid to students who are Dreamers—and we are committed to working with Congress to advance this goal.

The Budget also proposes to create partnerships between the federal government and States to make two years of community college free for first-time students and workers wanting to reskill. The Budget proposes mandatory funding for two years of subsidized tuition up to $4,500 per year for students from families earning less than $125,000 enrolled in an eligible four-year Historically Black College or University (HBCU), Tribally Controlled College or University (TCCU), or Minority Serving Institution (MSI).

In addition to the aforementioned Classroom to Career program, the Reducing the Costs of College Fund proposal includes $5 billion for awards to colleges and universities that:
1. provide an excellent education at an affordable price to expand the number of students served and to share best practices, and
2. scale evidence-based strategies that increase college completion rates, reduce cost burdens for students, and lower costs per graduate.

(Note: Proprietary institutions of higher education are not eligible to participate in the new student support initiative.)

The Budget also builds on President Biden’s historic actions to reduce student debt and college costs by eliminating origination fees charged to borrowers on every new federal student loan.

In addition to improving college affordability, it is critical to help students obtain the resources they need to persist in and complete a postsecondary education. The Budget supports innovative and promising strategies to improve student success and degree completion, including:

  • Enhancing institutional capacity at HBCUs, TCCUs, MSIs, and low-resourced institutions, including at community colleges, by requesting $1.3 billion in institutional support under Titles III and V of the Higher Education Act. Additionally, the Request includes a $100 million initiative in the FIPSE program to expand research and development infrastructure at four-year HBCUs, TCCUs, and MSIs.
  • $100 million for the Postsecondary Student Success Grant Program, which provides competitive grants to States, nonprofits, institutions of higher education (IHEs), and systems of IHEs to implement, expand, and evaluate evidence-based, data driven completion and success strategies to improve student outcomes.
  • $80 million to colleges and universities providing affordable childcare for low income student parents, a $5 million increase over FY 2023 and FY 2024 enacted levels to the Child Care Access Means Parents in School Program, or CCAMPIS.
  • Increased funding for Federal TRIO programs and GEAR UP, $20 million and $10 million, respectively, above FY 2023 and FY 2024 enacted levels to expand services that promote access and completion in postsecondary education for underserved individuals.
  • $15 million to support a new Statewide Reform Grants program that awards grants to States and state higher education governing, policy, and coordinating entities to implement statewide improvements and reforms to the entire spectrum of postsecondary education—from access to career outcomes and student success.
  • $10 million to support a new Postsecondary Advancement and Success Technical Assistance Center to improve access to equitable college inclusion, completion, and retention opportunities.
  • $12 million for the Open Textbooks Pilot to create new open textbooks and expand their use, in alignment with the Administration’s goal of lowering the cost of college and eliminating unnecessary junk fees.

The Budget will improve the services we provide students and families to help them pay for college through an essential investment in Student Aid Administration. With limited resources, this Administration has been engaged on multiple fronts to improve the student aid experience, including on actions that are Congressionally directed. Some of these efforts include implementing an entirely new student aid formula, revamping a 40-year-old student aid application system, navigating a successful return to repayment from the pandemic-driven payment pause, and overhauling a broken student loan servicing system. We are requesting $2.7 billion to administer the Federal student aid programs in FY 2025, an increase of $625 million and $600 million, respectively, over FY 2023 and FY 2024 enacted, to support students and student loan borrowers as they navigate these modernized financial aid application and student loan repayment processes. The increase will allow the Office of Federal Student Aid
(FSA) to effectively operate the student aid programs, and additionally protect against cybersecurity breaches to ensure protection of borrowers’ personal information, implement critical improvements to student loan servicing, continue to modernize its digital infrastructure, and ensure successful administration of the financial aid programs through a simplified application process for students and borrowers.”

The Committee’s Shift In Focus of the Hearing
Following Secretary Cardona’s prepared remarks on the Administration’s Budget proposal, the hearing quickly shifted to a very directed discussion of the Administration’s and the Secretary’s handling of recent and previous affairs including the FASFA Simplification rollout and response to the current civil unrest on institution of higher education campuses.

House Committee Chair Virginia Foxx once again directly called for Secretary Cardona to resign in the wake of recent events on campuses across the country and concerns with antisemitism she and other Republicans believe have not been appropriately handled by the Administration.

Cardona and House Democrats countered with explanations regarding the challenges regarding civil rights issues and the justification for a significant increase in the Office of Civil Rights portions of the Education Budget proposal.

With respect to the significant problems related to the transition to the new Student Financial Aid process, Secretary Cardona apologized for the delays. But the apology and justifications for the errors and delays were summarily dismissed by Republicans, who not only repeatedly asked why the current rollout was such a failure, while also seeking assurances that next years process will not suffer the same fate.

What’s Next
The President’s FY25 Budget proposal as presented is simply a “road map” or set of recommendations of the Administration’s priorities. With a split House and Senate, the FY25 proposal will not be supported in the House and candidly, if the past is prologue, we are not likely to even seen Congressional passage of a compromise bill – especially in an election year. What the Budget does do however is make clear many of the differences between the parities on fiscal (monetary) policy and with the Biden=Harris Administration’s most recent proposal student and institutional policy as well.

On behalf of our students and our community, we must continue to oppose proposal that seek to limit students access to the funds established for their use at the institution of their choosing and other institutional policy exclusions that treat sectors of the higher education community differently.