Biden’s Education Secretary Nominee Vows to Prioritize Free Community College, Debt Cancellation

January 26, 2021 Updated: January 26, 2021

Miguel Cardona, President Joe Biden’s nominee to the Education Department, said he will prioritize cancelling student loan debt and offer tuition-free community college education once he is confirmed by the Senate.

Cardona, who was named Connecticut’s K-12 school chief last August, would be facing a number of issues on his first day as Education secretary, mainly fulfilling Biden’s campaign promises on higher education, which include making public colleges and universities tuition-free for all families with incomes below $125,000, and a broad cancellation of student loan debt.

“While I do have a pre-K-12 background—and that’s an area of passion for me—I recognize as a first-generation college student myself the importance of higher education and the importance of making it accessible,” Cardona said Monday during a 30-minute interview with Connecticut Public Radio.

When asked if he supports Biden’s plan to make tuition at community colleges free, Cardona said he is “100 percent” in favor of the proposal, and that he expects community colleges to become a more important pathway to higher education.

“We have to blur the lines between our pre-K-12 system and our higher education system, and make them more seamless,” Cardona said. “From the perspective of the consumer of education, it has to be clearer, it has to be an easier reach. Community colleges play that role.”

“We really have to make it more accessible, not only for our pre-K-12 system connection but also there are a lot of adults in our communities who would welcome an opportunity to engage in higher learning through community colleges, or they think about career advancement and all they need is that first step into the community college,” he added.

Cardona also expressed support for Biden’s proposal to wipe out $10,000 in student debt for all borrowers.

“I would work with our senators and our Congress folks to support a plan that provides some relief for our students in higher education,” he said, adding that they would make sure the relief targets students that are most in-need.

Cardona’s remarks come weeks after former Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, during her final days in office, urged against proposals to forgive student loan debt and make college free for some students.

In her farewell letter, DeVos notes that two-thirds of Americans don’t have student loans. She argued that it’s fundamentally unfair to require two-third of Americans who didn’t go to college or who don’t have student loans to subsidize the one-third who did.

“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,” DeVos wrote. “And it’s even more unfair to those who have held up their end of the bargain and paid back their student loans themselves to subsidize those who don’t save, plan, and pay.”