Cardona grilled over Biden student loan handouts for campus anti-Israel agitators ‘breaking the law’

President Biden’s Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona was grilled on Capitol Hill Tuesday on whether U.S. taxpayers would foot the student loan bills for anti-Israel agitators “breaking the law” at college campuses. 

House Education and the Workforce Committee Chair Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., asked Cardona that because he has “been proudly volunteering the taxpayers to take on the student loan debt of largely wealthy college graduates,” does he “believe the students who spend their time in college calling for the destruction of an ethnic or religious group or spend their time preventing students a particular ethnic or religious groups from walking around campus freely or spend their time occupying campus buildings deserve to have their education paid for by taxpayers.” 

“I couldn’t hear you that well, but if you’re making reference to the student debt relief plan that we’ve done, I’m really proud of the work that we’re doing to provide a lifeline for students who chose to go to college and are living…” Cardona responded before Foxx interjected. She said she was referring to students “who are being antisemitic and stopping Jewish students from being able to go to class and threatening them.” 

“Do you want to have the taxpayers pay their loans off?” the chairwoman asked during Tuesday’s hearing titled, “Examining the Education Department’s Policies, Priorities, and FY 2023 Financial Audit Failure.”

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Cardona education secretary on Capitol Hill

Education Secretary Miguel Cardona speaks to members of the media following a Senate Appropriations subcommittee hearing on Tuesday, April 30, 2024. (Tierney L. Cross/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

“I believe that students who are breaking the law and are disrupting the educational environment should be held to account. I believe it’s important that all students have access to their higher education classes and graduation,” said Cardona, who is testifying before the committee for the fourth time.

Foxx asked the secretary if he would commit to ensuring that no student who has “harassed other students, or prevented other students from going to class or broken laws receives any form of student loan forgiveness.” 

“We are committed to making sure that campuses are safe. I condemn any form of hate or any violence on campus. I’ve spoken to students and educators who have experienced that, and…” Cardona said.

Foxx asserted, “We’d like you to follow through on those who do break the law and make sure they don’t receive student loan forgiveness.” 

In her opening statement, Foxx reiterated her call for Cardona’s resignation, charging that the secretary “presided over the greatest decline of educational attainment and institutional legitimacy in the history of our nation.” 

“From the beginning, I’ve urged a firm hand in dealing with the explosion of antisemitism on campus, and I’ve led by example. You, on the other hand, refused to even say that the ‘From the River to the Sea’ chant is antisemitic,” Foxx said. “I saw this as a failure of moral clarity deeming you unfit for public office and called for your resignation in February. With the outbreak of campus riots, I am only more resolute, so I will say it again: you must resign. If I were to grade your time as secretary based on the state of post-secondary education, I would also give you an F.” 

Foxx at a Republican press conference

Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., speaks during a news conference about the protests happening on college campuses, at the U.S. Capitol on Tuesday, April 30, 2024. (Tierney L. Cross/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

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The hearing comes amid a bungled rollout of a new federal student aid form that has left millions of students in limbo. 

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) went through a massive overhaul that was supposed to make it simpler and shorter. However, a series of blunders by the Education Department made it harder than ever, delaying college decisions by months and raising fears that hundreds of thousands of students will forgo college entirely. By May 1, students across the U.S. usually know where they are headed to college in the fall. This year, however, most do not even have financial aid offers yet after delays and glitches in the launch of the new FAFSA form.

The rollout has attracted bipartisan criticism in Congress, and is being investigated at the request of Republicans. 

Foxx listens as Speaker Johnson addresses media

House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., leads a news conference with Republican committee chairs, to decry anti-Israel protests at universities across the country at the U.S. Capitol Visitors Center on April 30, 2024 in Washington, D.C. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Last week, Richard Cordray, the federal student loan chief who oversaw the FAFSA update, announced he is stepping down at the end of June. Foxx demanded Cardona commit to finding a replacement for Cordray who has “real world experience leading a massive lending operation so that we can be assured that the financial interests of the taxpayers are protected,” given FAFSA is “de facto the largest consumer bank in the country.” 

“When the department should have been pouring time and resources into FAFSA, it was pouring time and resources into the latest student loan debt scheme,” Foxx said. “The newest scheme – the IDR SAVE plan – adds to your department’s actions that could cost taxpayers up to $1 trillion. For perspective, these actions are more expensive than all post-secondary education spending before 2020. The Higher Education Act passed in 1965. Yet you’re projected to spend more on just the Biden’s student loan debt scheme than all other secretaries spent since 1965 combined.” 

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Last week, House Republicans also announced an investigation into federal funding for universities overrun by anti-Israel encampments in potential violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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