Who’s Afraid of Virginia Foxx?

“Representative Virginia Foxx is planning to leverage the decline in public perception of higher education to usher in a new era of stronger accountability for the nation’s colleges and universities in her role as chairwoman of the House education committee.

This is ‘exactly the right time’ to reauthorize the Higher Education Act of 1965, Foxx said in a recent interview with Inside Higher Ed. The last reauthorization was in 2008, and the law is supposed to be renewed every five years. Foxx and other lawmakers have tried over the years to pass comprehensive higher education legislation—only for those efforts to fail—and observers are skeptical that meaningful higher education bills can pass both chambers during this session of Congress.

Still, Foxx is hopeful that she can get a bill across the finish line before the end of next year, even though Democrats control the Senate and White House. That’s because, she said, the COVID-19 pandemic exposed gaps in the higher education system and fueled drops in public opinion about higher education.

‘The reason I think we can do it this year is because higher ed has never been held in such low esteem as it is now,’ she said. ‘In the past, we had members who were a little shy about doing it, because their presidents of their universities would come to them and say, ‘No, no, no, you can’t bother us,’ and they would be intimidated by them. But I don’t think that’s going to be the case this year.’

In her first two months as chair, Foxx has organized one hearing on the “crises” in American education, filed numerous requests for information with the Department of Education and called attention to the cost and value of a college degree. She’s also shown a willingness to bring the culture wars that have been waged in schools and on college campuses into the hearing room. The committee’s first markup session Wednesday focused on bills that would prevent transgender students from playing on school or college teams that match their gender identity and would create a Parents’ Bill of Rights with regard to children’s education.”

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