Elizabeth Warren is holding up the confirmation of a top Education Dept. nominee to push for better administration of student-loan servicers

senator elizabeth warren
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA).

  • Sen. Elizabeth Warren is responsible for stalling James Kvaal’s nomination to under secretary of Education.
  • A source familiar with the matter told Insider the stall is not about student-debt cancellation.
  • Rather, Warren wants the Education Department to improve how it oversees student-loan servicers.
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Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts is responsible for holding up James Kvaal’s nomination for under secretary of education, a source familiar with the matter confirmed to Insider.

Kvaal, the former president of the nonprofit Institute of College Access and Success, was nominated for the number three position at the Education Department in February, but Warren has been stalling his nomination because she wants to improve the administration of the student loan program.

The source told Insider that although Warren is leading the effort for $50,000 in student debt cancellation, this is not about cancellation, but rather the administration of loan servicers. The Warren office has engaged in conversations with Kvaal about necessary reforms in higher education, including improvements to the student loan program, the source said, adding that these conversations are continuing.

Bloomberg first reported that a Senate Democrat was stalling Kvaal’s confirmation, but the identity of the lawmaker was unknown at the time.

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Outgoing Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos urged against student loan forgiveness in letter to Congress

U.S. Education Secretary Betsy Devos speaks during a White House coronavirus disease (COVID-19) task force briefing at the U.S. Education Department in Washington, U.S., July 8, 2020. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
U.S. Education Secretary Betsy Devos speaks at White House coronavirus task force briefing at the Education Department in Washington

  • Outgoing Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos advised Congress to vote against student loan forgiveness, according to a letter obtained by CBS News and Politico.
  • “Across-the-board forgiveness of college debts is not only unfair to most Americans, it is also the most regressive of policy proposals – rewarding the wealthiest sector of our labor force at the expense of the poorest,” she wrote.
  • In the apparent farewell letter addressed to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, DeVos outlined a number of education policies, including allocating direct federal funding to students
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Outgoing Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos advised against student loan forgiveness in a letter sent to Congress Monday, which was obtained by CBS News and Politico.

In what appeared to be a farewell letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, DeVos reflected “on the past four years and the conversations we have had together” and shared some “closing thoughts” with the Kentucky senator.

DeVos outlined a number of talking points in the letter, including considering allocating direct federal funding to students.

“Let me urge you instead to provide for students the opportunity to pursue meaningful, challenging, and rewarding learning opportunities,” DeVos wrote. “Let me encourage you to fund education – that is, learning – not a Department of Education. Let me urge you to fund students, not school buildings.”

She also dismissed student loan forgiveness in the letter – a policy in which President-elect Joe Biden has expressed support during his upcoming term. Biden has previously proposed making undergraduate education free in some cases and expanding college federal loan programs. He also suggested giving student loan borrowers $10,000 in loan forgiveness as part of coronavirus relief.

Read more: What a Biden presidency could mean for America’s student-loan debt crisis

DeVos, in contrast, urged Congress to reject such a proposal.

“Importantly, I hope you also reject misguided calls to make college ‘free’ and require the two-thirds of Americans who didn’t take on student debt or who responsibly paid off their student loans to pay for the loans of those who have not done the same,” she wrote in the letter.

“Across-the-board forgiveness of college debts is not only unfair to most Americans, it is also the most regressive of policy proposals – rewarding the wealthiest sector of our labor force at the expense of the poorest,” she continued.

In December, DeVos extended student loan forbearance through the end of January. Previously, more than 40 million student loan borrowers in the US weren’t expected to make payments again until the end of 2020, setting up a complicated situation for both borrowers and the incoming Biden administration.

Though student loan forbearance is set to expire at the end of the month, the bipartisan $908 billion coronavirus relief package signed by President Donald Trump does not include additional forbearance. It is not immediately clear what the incoming Biden administration will do with regards to the policy from the time he is inaugurated on January 20 to its expiration date on January 31.

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Jill Biden will reportedly back debt-free community college as first lady

jill biden
Dr. Jill Biden.

  • Dr. Jill Biden, President-elect Joe Biden’s wife and the future first lady, will push for debt-free community college, according to a close source who spoke with Yahoo News.
  • “We have often talked about community colleges as the unsung heroes,” Martha Kanter, an under secretary of education during the administration of former President Barack Obama, told Yahoo News.
  • While serving as second lady of the United States from 2009 to 2017, Biden taught English at Northern Virginia Community College.
  • Biden plans to return to teaching as first lady, which would make her the only woman in the role’s 231-year history to have a full-time job while assuming the duties of the position, according to USA Today.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Dr. Jill Biden, President-elect Joe Biden’s wife and the future first lady, will push for debt-free community college, a close source told Yahoo News.

Martha Kanter, an under secretary of education during the administration of former President Barack Obama, said that Biden’s lifelong commitment to education will extend to her role as first lady, with debt-free community college as a priority.

“That is what she would like to see,” Kanter told Yahoo News. “We have often talked about community colleges as the unsung heroes,” she said, adding that Biden has sought “to really help people understand the value proposition and the return on investment and why it’s important.”

Biden is also slated to advocate for the education issues that the president-elect championed during his campaign, according to the report. Those issues include doubling the number of psychologists, counselors, social workers, and other health workers in schools and improving teacher pay.

A longtime educator, Biden spent a large part of her professional career teaching at the community college level. While serving as second lady of the United States from 2009 to 2017, she was also an English professor at Northern Virginia Community College. Before that, she taught for 15 years at Delaware Technical Community College.

She plans to return to teaching as first lady, which would make her the only woman in the role’s 231-year history to have a full-time job while assuming the duties of the position, according to USA Today.

“Teaching has always been more than just a job to her – it’s who she is,” said Biden spokesperson Michael LaRosa to Yahoo News.

Biden, who earned two master’s degrees from West Chester University and Villanova University, respectively, in addition to a doctorate from the University of Delaware, has been a staunch supporter of community colleges.

During a 2015 speech at the National Legislative Summit, a leading community college advocacy event, she credited her grandmother with her love of education and detailed the rewards of helping students with their reading skills.

“Teaching is my life’s work,” Biden said at the time. “I teach because I love seeing the difference that I hope to make in my students’ lives. My goal is to always give them confidence in their own abilities, because I know confidence will carry them well beyond my classroom in whatever they do. As I work hard every day to inspire my students, it is ultimately they who inspire me.”

Kanter told Yahoo news that Biden’s classroom experience gives her a “critical voice” for upcoming education debates.

“She’s … knowledgeable about the challenges,” she said. “Why do students leave? Why do they drop out? What are the barriers that we better work much harder and to get out of the way? And I think that’s what she’s going to say.”

While Obama tried to enact legislation making two years of community college free, he faced GOP opposition in the Senate. While the president-elect will face similar headwinds, especially if Republicans retain control of the Senate after the January 2021 runoff elections in Georgia, the incoming first lady has “an informal but crucial role advising the president-elect,” according to a former staffer.

“She’s been a pretty great sounding board throughout his career,” the staffer said to Yahoo News. “She will have a very ambitious portfolio and I’m sure she’s particularly influential on the education front. She’s got decades of experience there.”

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