Dive Brief:

  • Rep. Virginia Foxx, a North Carolina Republican, was chosen Monday to chair the House Education and the Workforce Committee again, and she wasted no time warning President Joe Biden’s administration that Education Department officials will be answering her questions.
  • “To officials in the Biden administration: think about investing in a parking space on Capitol Hill — you will be here often,” Foxx said in a statement. “Conducting vigorous and sustained oversight of the federal government, especially the Departments of Education and Labor, will be among my top priorities.”
  • Foxx also called for stopping the administration’s regulatory agenda, which she described as “reckless and destructive.”

Dive Insight:

Foxx has been the presumed leader of the House’s education committee since Republicans captured control of the chamber in November’s election. She previously chaired the committee from 2017 to 2019 before Democrats took control of the House and gave leadership of the committee, which they called the Committee on Education and Labor, to Rep. Bobby Scott of Virginia.

Rep. Tim Walberg, a Michigan Republican , challenged Foxx for the chair, which she could only pursue with a waiver because of Republican leadership term limits. The GOP Steering Committee delayed choosing a candidate for several contested committee chairs, including education, while Republicans resolved a lengthy fight over who would be House speaker.

If the past is any predictor, Foxx’s selection signals scrutiny and bombast aimed at the Biden administration and business as usual in higher education.

Foxx has been one of the most outspoken critics of Biden’s plan to forgive as much as $20,000 in federal student loan debt for individuals making up to $125,000 annually. She called the program a “slap in the face” for those who didn’t go to college or who’ve paid off their loans after Biden announced the plan in August.

She’s sought to pare down the federal student loan system with legislation that would limit the types of repayment plans offered to students. That includes proposals to eliminate the troubled Public Service Loan Forgiveness program and end a loan program that allows graduate students to borrow up to the total cost of college attendance, known as Graduate PLUS loans.

The Republican proposal would also end interest capitalization, which adds unpaid interest to loan principal amounts. Notably, the Biden administration has also sought to limit interest capitalization, using regulatory rewrites to try to block capitalization where it’s not required by law.

Foxx previously staked out a position in support of short-term Pell Grants, or Workforce Pell Grants, which would allow the federal student aid to be applied toward programs with as few as 150 hours over eight weeks. 

Assuring federal dollars are going to high-quality programs has been a sticking point in past short-term Pell negotiations. During an earlier push for the change, Foxx said attempts to exclude for-profit and online colleges from the program would unfairly pick winners and losers.

Foxx has also signaled intent to use her position to dissect colleges’ actions.

She called “egregious and unacceptable” a congressional watchdog’s findings last year that most colleges don’t provide accurate information about their financial aid offers. And she was among a group of Republicans who asked the Education Department in October to explain how it works to support academic freedom on college campuses, arguing the agency didn’t seem to be promoting a free exchange of ideas.

“I am deeply honored by the trust placed in me by my colleagues to chair a committee whose work touches the lives of every American,” Foxx said Monday. “I do not take this trust or responsibility lightly. I will use my position to protect the rights of workers, job creators, students, and parents.”