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U.S. Sen. Capito questions U.S. Department of Education Secretary Miguel Cardona on FAFSA, campus antisemitism

West Virginia Press Association

WASHINGTON, D.C. – On April 30, U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), Ranking Member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies (Labor-HHS), questioned U.S. Department of Education (Education) Secretary Miguel Cardona during a hearing to review the department’s budget requests for Fiscal Year (FY) 2025.

In her opening statement, Ranking Member Capito focused on issues with rising antisemitism on college campuses across America, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), chronic student absenteeism, prioritizing federal funds for the most successful local programs, and the administration’s proposed charter school funding cuts.

During her questions, Ranking Member Capito pressed Secretary Cardona on the botched rollout of the Biden administration’s new FAFSA form and how it’s impacting students in West Virginia and across the country. Ranking Member Capito also pressed the secretary on the timely issue of the disturbing rise of antisemitism on college campusesand asked how theBiden administration plans to address it.

Last week, Ranking Member Capito sent a letter to Secretary Cardona and U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland urging them to restore order to campuses that have been effectively shut down by antisemitic mobs that are targeting Jewish students. Click here to read the letter and view a timeline of Ranking Member Capito’s efforts in this space.

HIGHLIGHTS:

ON THE DISTURBING RISE OF ANTISEMITISM ON COLLEGE CAMPUSES, PARTICULARLY COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY:

RANKING MEMBER CAPITO: “No student should feel unsafe on their campus. Yet just last week, Columbia University had to move classes online and Jewish students were told by a campus Rabbi to go home because it was no longer safe for them on their campus. And late last night, protesters took over Hamilton Hall on campus and the university is locked down today… This is just totally unacceptable. So, Secretary Cardona, do you believe what is happening to Jewish students at Columbia and other colleges and universities across this country is okay?”

SEC. CARDONA: “Absolutely not. I think what’s happening on our campuses is abhorrent. Hate has no place on our campuses and I’m very concerned with the reports of antisemitism. I’ve spoken to Jewish students who have feared going to class as a result of some of the harassment that they’re facing on campuses. It’s unacceptable and we’re committed, as a Department of Education, to adhering to Title VI enforcement. We have 137 open cases. We take this very seriously. We’ve increased the number of communications to college campuses to make sure that they have what they need in terms of the law and best practices on how to make sure they’re protecting students. Look, as an educator, lifelong educator, protecting students is our number one responsibility. We take that seriously. And, you know, the antisemitism that we’ve seen on campus is unacceptable.”

RANKING MEMBER CAPITO: “Unacceptable, we agree.”

ON THE DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION’S CURRENT EFFORTS TO MONITOR ANTISEMITISM AT COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY:

RANKING MEMBER CAPITO: “Do you have people at Columbia right now on the scene to see what’s going on there? Do you have staff there to watch?”

SEC. CARDONA: “I do not have staff at Columbia right now.”

RANKING MEMBER CAPITO: “Does the Civil Rights Office have somebody up there?”

SEC. CARDONA: “I do not have staff at the Columbia University, and I should share with you that we do have an open investigation at Columbia University.”

ON THE FAFSA FORM FORCING POTENTIAL STUDENTS TO ABANDON HIGHER EDUCATION HOPES:

RANKING MEMBER CAPITO: “I want to move to the FAFSA because I brought that up in my opening statement. The data that I used, I put up here on a chart just so everybody could see: 36% down among freshmen nationally, in West Virginia, down 40%… Have you apologized? Have you said ‘we know we’ve really screwed this up and we need to- we need to make it better for, not just the students, but the institutions as well.’ I’ll give you a chance to respond.”

SEC. CARDONA: “Absolutely. I’ve spoken to parents and students directly. I’ve sat with them while they’re filling out FAFSA. We at the FSA have worked to return 28 million borrowers to repayment. We’ve changed servicers and this FAFSA, better FAFSA-”

RANKING MEMBER CAPITO: “You’ve also worked on forgiving a whole lot of student debt that’s diverted a lot of your resources into this while you’re not focusing on the fundamentals of people trying to go to college for the first time.”

SEC. CARDONA: “I would welcome an opportunity to engage with folks in West Virginia. Just share the strategies that we’re doing and I’d love to work together with you to make sure that the West Virginians have access to higher education. The form is now about 15 minutes. We are processing if a student in West Virginia applies today, by Friday the colleges are going to have the information. We’ve processed over 8.2 million-”

RANKING MEMBER CAPITO: “Are you accurately processing now?

SEC. CARDONA: “Yes, we are accurately processing-”

RANKING MEMBER CAPITO: “That was an issue too.”

SEC. CARDONA: “We’ve made those corrections and we are accurately processing information.”

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