Rep. Foxx hints at her priorities for higher education subcommittee in interview
The 112th U.S. Congress convened Wednesday, committee assignments are now set and hearings are in the works. While much attention has been paid to what higher-profile committees in the GOP-controlled House of Representatives have planned — mainly, House Oversight Chair Darrell Issa’s investigations of the Obama administration — other committee and subcommittee chairs have been less vocal about their agendas.
Such is the case with newly-named chair of the House Subcommittee on Higher Education, Lifelong Learning, and Competitiveness, North Carolina Republican Rep. Virginia Foxx. Her appointment is not high-profile, so plans for her subcommittee’s hearings aren’t clear. Yet, Foxx, a former educator and community-college president, has tipped her hand on a few priorities she would likely address.
In an interview with the The Chronicle of Higher Education this week, Foxx said she plans to hold hearings on a student-loan bill that ended subsidization of private loan companies.
Ms. Foxx has criticized legislation that ended the bank-based program for supplying federal student loans in favor of 100-percent direct lending, in which students obtain their loans from the Department of Education. She said on Tuesday that the bill “eliminated choice, competition, and innovations from student lending,” and promised hearings aimed at making “improvements to a very flawed law.”
Foxx was no fan of the George W. Bush-era reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, either. She was the only member of the House Education committee to vote against the measure, which Bush signed in 2008.
Among college lobbyists, Ms. Foxx is best known for her support of community colleges and her opposition to the creation of a unit-record system for tracking individual students’ educational progress. She was also the only member of the House education committee to vote against final legislation to reauthorize the Higher Education Act in 2008. Ms. Foxx said on Tuesday that she couldn’t remember why she voted against the bill.
The Chronicle of Higher Education reported on the details of the Act at the time of its passage:
Among its provisions, the law creates dozens of grant programs for colleges and students while imposing hundreds of new reporting requirements on institutions. It cracks down on conflicts of interest in student-loan programs, presses institutions and states to rein in tuition, and makes it easier for for-profit colleges to become, or to remain, eligible to award federal student aid.
It also seeks to prevent students from taking out private loans unnecessarily, and it prohibits the secretary of education from dictating how colleges measure student learning for purposes of accreditation.
Foxx also questions President Obama’s goal for more graduates (5 million more by 2020) at community colleges:
When questioned about whether she supported the president’s ambitious graduation goal for community colleges, she said she was “curious to find out what the basis is for the claim that we have to graduate five million more people.”
“I don’t think the measure of success of a community college is always graduation,” she said. “Many times, all people need to learn is a skill and perhaps get certification in an area.”
In a separate interview unrelated to education, Foxx provides ambitious goals for the Republican House. “We’re promising that the American people are going to know what’s in the bills before they get passed and member are going to know what’s in the bills before they get passed, because the bills are going to be posted on-line and we will all have copies of them 72 hours before they’re voted on,” she told the North Carolina News Network.