- Rep. Virginia Foxx, who retook the chair of the House Education and the Workforce Committee, is once again pressing the U.S. Department of Education to explain how it handles colleges that undermine free speech and academic freedom.
- The North Carolina Republican is fulfilling her promise to hold the Biden administration’s feet to the fire through oversight inquiries once Republicans took charge of the House and she reclaimed the committee gavel. Foxx, along with Rep. James Comer, a Kentucky Republican who now chairs the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, first wrote to the Education Department in September demanding answers on free inquiry at colleges.
- In a new letter Thursday, Foxx told Education Secretary Miguel Cardona to respond to the request by Jan. 27. She wrote that not doing so “may result in the Committee taking more robust actions to ensure compliance with its oversight requests.”
When Democrats held control of the House, Foxx served as ranking member of the education committee and was one of the Biden administration’s most vocal critics on efforts like mass student loan debt cancellation for borrowers earning up to $125,000 a year.
Foxx previously held the committee chair from 2017 to 2019. GOP term limit rules required her to secure a waiver to lead the committee again.
She pledged that once Republicans retook the House majority, the committee would take aggressive oversight action. When her party named her chair again, she said in a statement that Biden administration officials should “think about investing in a parking space on Capitol Hill — you will be here often.”
In the September letter, Foxx and Comer raised criticisms of higher education that are common among Republicans, including that colleges suppress speech that doesn’t match “political correctness.”
They said the criticism is backed by examples like the University of Pennsylvania faculty senate trying to sanction law professor Amy Wax — who has frequently made inflammatory statements Penn’s law dean has called “racist, sexist, xenophobic and homophobic.”
“Unfortunately, these efforts to suppress free speech are working,” the lawmakers wrote in the September letter. “College students are increasingly concerned about their ability to freely express their opinions and ideas on their campuses.”
In her new letter Thursday, Foxx wrote that during the first two years of the Biden administration, federal agencies “have failed to comply fully” with congressional oversight requests.
She told Cardona that trend will end, and he will provide robust responses.
Foxx has also signaled she wants to hold colleges accountable.
Last year, she called a congressional watchdog’s findings that a majority of colleges misrepresent their financial aid offers “egregious and unacceptable.”
Foxx has backed positions on higher ed-related issues like short-term Pell Grants, which would permit students to apply federal aid toward programs with as few as 150 hours over eight weeks.
On the student loan side, she has introduced legislation that would whittle down the number of available loan repayment plans and end the beleaguered Public Service Loan Forgiveness program.
Foxx has also sent letters reminding agencies of oversight requests to officials like President Joe Biden, Attorney General Merrick Garland and Labor Secretary Marty Walsh.