Huckabee Sanders slams Biden education secretary ahead of Arkansas visit

Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders (R) ripped into the Biden administration’s student loan forgiveness program and other educational policies ahead of Education Secretary Miguel Cardona’s trip to Little Rock on Tuesday.

In a letter to Cardona sent Monday, Sanders and Arkansas Secretary of Education Jacob Olivia wrote, “You will be in Little Rock tomorrow to tout President Biden’s unconstitutional student loan forgiveness program and try and explain your department’s disastrous rollout of updates to the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).”

“We welcome you to our state, but we fear that this visit will only serve to highlight some of your administration’s worst mistakes,” the letter continued.

Cardona is slated to visit Arkansas on Tuesday afternoon for a roundtable on student debt forgiveness. He is expected to also visit a FAFSA clinic for high school seniors and families at Little Rock Central High School.

“This trip is part of the Biden-Harris Administration’s commitment to fixing the broken student loan system,” the Education Department wrote in a statement.

President Biden has made student loan forgiveness a central focus for his administration, and he has canceled an estimated $153 billion in student loans during his presidency.

Arkansas residents have had over $541.1 million in loans forgiven under the Biden administration, an Education Department spokesperson told The Hill

Sanders called the Biden administration’s forgiveness “for certain student loans” “unfair, unwise, and unlawful.”

“Not only does it force Arkansans who chose not to attend college to pay for others’ education, not only does it offer forgiveness for past loans with no plan to address the future growth of college tuition expenses, but it has also been declared unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court,” Sanders wrote.

The Supreme Court last year blocked the Biden administration’s student debt relief plan that would’ve stopped more than 40 million borrowers from receiving loan forgiveness.

In an effort to circumvent other legal challenges, the Biden administration rolled out a new loan forgiveness program that would target certain groups of borrows for relief.

The proposal — unveiled earlier this month — would cover borrowers on income-driven repayment (IDR) plans, people who have been paying loans for more than 20 years, those who went to low-value institutions, people experiencing hardship and those with unpaid interest growth.

If the plans are finalized, the administration would begin this fall cancelling up to $20,000 in interest for millions of borrowers and full loan forgiveness for millions more, the White House said earlier this month.

Cardona is “unapologetically committed” to getting results for students and families, a Department of Education spokesperson said. They added the agency is focused on prioritizing people over politics.

Sanders said she is also “deeply concerned” regarding what she called a “mishandling” of the FAFSA program after the department rolled out updated forms last year.

“FAFSA provides a crucial avenue for young Arkansas seeking federal student aid,” she wrote, adding later, “The U.S. Department of Education’s FAFSA platform, though, is functionally nonoperational, causing extreme delays, complexity, and difficulty for students and families.”

The Education Department has faced mounting scrutiny in recent months over the botched rollout of FAFSA forms that has prompted months of delays and incorrect financial aid information being sent to colleges.

The technical issues began when the department introduced the new forms last December, and the department later said colleges would not receive student financial information until March because of additional changes it wanted to make to the formula. In March, incorrect financial data was sent to colleges that could not be processed.

The department last week acknowledged it has been a “challenging year” for the FAFSA process.

The Arkansas governor and education chief aired out a number of other frustrations with the Biden administration’s educational policies, including Cardona’s vow to shut down Grand Canyon University, the largest Christian university in the U.S.

“The botched FAFSA update, the unlawful student debt forgiveness program and so much more have created a mess. I hope that your visit to Little Rock offers more than just empty words for struggling Arkansans,” the letter concluded.

Updated: 5:34 p.m.

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