Student Aid Woes Stalk Cardona During Appearance on Capitol Hill

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In two hearings, House lawmakers scrutinized Education Secretary Miguel Cardona’s record over persistent problems with the new FAFSA form.

As Miguel A. Cardona, the education secretary, appeared before lawmakers on Wednesday to make his agency’s case for funding next year, members of both parties had something else on their minds: this year’s chaotic college admissions process.

Republicans peppered him with questions about the botched rollout of the new Free Application for Federal Student Aid form, which has derailed college admissions this year. Several of them asked whether the agency had diverted resources away from the project in its pursuit of canceling student debt.

“There’s nothing more important right now at the Department of Education,” Mr. Cardona told the House Appropriations Committee of the aid form, saying that the agency was successfully juggling multiple priorities with the resources available. “We’re working on this around the clock.”

While Mr. Cardona was testifying, the House Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Development held a separate hearing where lawmakers from both parties said the problems with the aid form had harmed aspiring college students.

“This isn’t just a petty list of grievances,” Justin Draeger, the chief executive of the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators, told lawmakers. “This really adds up to a crisis of credibility for the Department of Education.”

Mr. Draeger said that schools his organization worked with had run into two additional issues affecting the department’s calculations, which have rendered as many as 40 percent of the financial records schools have received so far unusable.

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