04.15.21

Senator Murray Urges Speedy Confirmation For Education Under Secretary Nominee James Kvaal

Senator Murray urged colleagues to support Kvaal’s nomination and build on the progress of the American Rescue Plan to support higher education students and work to make college more affordable and accessible

 

Senator Murray: “I have no doubt that when confirmed, Mr. Kvaal will fight for students, and against special interests—because it’s what he has always done.”

 

(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, urged her colleagues to support the nomination of James Kvaal to serve as Under Secretary of Education, highlighting his extensive experience—at the Department of Education, the Obama Domestic Policy Council, and as President of The Institute for College Access and Success—working to build a more equitable higher education system for students. Senator Murray urged her colleagues to support Mr. Kvaal’s nomination in order to support higher education students during the current health and economic crises, address the student debt crisis, and help make college more affordable, accessible, accountable and safer, while addressing the systemic racism that has plagued our higher education system.

 

“Given everything the previous Administration did to undermine this critical work over the last four years, President Biden couldn’t have picked a better candidate to get things back on track,” said Senator Murray in her opening remarks. “I have no doubt that when confirmed, Mr. Kvaal will fight for students, and against special interests—because it’s what he has always done.”

 

During the hearing, Senator Murray highlighted that as Deputy Under Secretary of Education, and later as Deputy Director of the Domestic Policy Council during the Obama Administration, Kvaal implemented one of the largest overhauls of student aid, which ended wasteful subsides to banks in our student loan system and massively expanded the Pell Grant program. He also created the College Scorecard—which provides students more information about the outcomes of the schools they are considering—and developed the Obama Administration’s gainful employment rule, which protected students and taxpayers from predatory for-profit colleges that left students with debt they couldn’t repay. As President of The Institute for College Access and Success, Kvaal has also been a passionate champion for equity and affordability in higher education—testifying before Congress and leading public discussion on issues like strengthening Pell Grants, simplifying the FAFSA, supporting student loan borrowers, and increasing state and federal investments in higher education.

 

“The painful reality is that higher education was at a crisis point well before this pandemic struck,” continued Senator Murray. “Before COVID-19, student debt was already at a historically high, the cost of higher education was relentlessly on the rise, the roots of systemic racism ran were already deep, and damaging, and campus sexual assault was already an epidemic. That’s why it’s so important to have leaders like Mr. Kvaal at the Department of Education who have the drive, and the experience, to tackle them these issues head on and help build back better.”

Senator Murray’s opening remarks, as prepared for delivery, are below:

“I think everyone here is encouraged by the progress our nation continues to make toward ending the COVID-19 crisis. But we’re also well aware the challenge before us isn’t just ending this pandemic—but rebuilding stronger and fairer.

 

“Because, while this pandemic has made life harder for students pursuing a higher education by disrupting their classrooms and dorms,  challenging their mental health, and upending the economy and creating uncertainty for students already struggling to pay for tuition, rent, food, and other basic needs, the painful reality is that higher education was at a crisis point well before this pandemic struck.

“Before COVID-19, student debt was already historically high, the cost of higher education was already relentlessly on the rise, the roots of systemic racism were already deep, and damaging, and campus sexual assault was already an epidemic.

 

“And after COVID-19, these problems will remain as urgent as ever.

“That’s why it’s so important we have leaders like Mr. Kvaal at the Department of Education who have the drive, and the experience, to tackle them.

 

“As President of The Institute for College Access and Success—Mr. Kvaal has testified before Congress and led the public discussion on issues like strengthening Pell Grants, simplifying the FAFSA, supporting student loan borrowers, and increasing state and federal investments in higher education.

 

“And in his previous work under President Obama, as Deputy Under Secretary of Education, and later as Deputy Director of the Domestic Policy Council, Mr. Kvaal helped to implement one of the largest overhauls of student aid, which ended wasteful subsides to banks in our student loan system and massively expanded the Pell Grant program; to create the College Scorecard, which provides students more information about the outcomes of the schools they are considering; and to develop the gainful employment rule, which protected students and taxpayers from predatory for-profit colleges that left students with debt they couldn’t repay.

 

“Given everything the previous Administration did to undermine this critical work over the last four years, President Biden couldn’t have picked a better candidate to get things back on track.

“I have no doubt that when confirmed, Mr. Kvaal will fight for students, and against special interests—because it’s what he has always done.

“Mr. Kvaal’s record shows he is clearly qualified to serve as Under Secretary of Education, and I’m pleased to support his nomination.


“I also look forward to working with Mr. Kvaal to make sure higher education is affordable, accessible, accountable, and safe—for every student.

 

“Finally, I seek unanimous consent to put in the record eight letters in support of Mr. Kvaal’s nomination, from more than 80 education advocacy groups, educator, college and universities.

 

“So ordered.

 

“Now I’ll recognize Ranking Member Burr for his opening remarks.”

 

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