Congressional roundtable on funding vocational schooling hits Biden’s student loan forgiveness

Written by on September 29, 2022

Congressional roundtable on funding vocational schooling hits Biden’s student loan forgiveness

By Hayden Mitman
September 29, 2022

Connecticut Rep. Jim Himes, a Democrat, leads House Select Committee on Economic Disparity and Fairness in Growth on Thursday. Himes in the committee's Chairman. (Screen shot from committee livestream).
Connecticut Rep. Jim Himes, a Democrat, leads House Select Committee on Economic Disparity and Fairness in Growth on Thursday. Himes in the committee’s Chairman. (Screen shot from committee livestream).

WASHINGTON, D.C. – A U.S. House Select Committee meeting on the need for apprenticeships, workforce development and investment into vocational skills spent much of its time discussing President Biden’s recent move to provide some student loan forgiveness.

The meeting of the House Select Committee on Economic Disparity and Fairness in Growth consisted of a roundtable discussion that let lawmakers discuss how to support individuals who have eschewed traditional college education for skills-based training.

“Are we paying for training as well as we could be?” Rep. Jim Himes, a Democrat from Connecticut who chairs the committee, asked the roundtable. “Should we be doing more funding at the federal level?” 

Members of the roundtable touched on a national deficit of skilled workers for domestic manufacturing, clean energy and infrastructure industries. The need for skilled workers in automobile manufacturing, as electric vehicles become more mainstream, was a frequent topic of discussion. 

Tony Toddy, president of the auto workers union in Toledo, Ohio, argued that manufacturers rely on skills-training and vocational training programs to fill gaps as there is a shortage of these types of workers in the economy.

“We are trying to build an EV — electric vehicle — maintenance and repair school that will give our high school students a diploma and a mechanic’s certification upon graduation,” Toddy told legislators.

“This came about when we heard the needs of local auto dealerships that currently are short their traditional mechanical staff and they don’t know where they are going to germ their electric vehicle mechanics from.”

Toddy said they still are working to put together funding to build the center. But he believes supporting an effort like the school is akin to the president’s student loan initiative. 

More vocational investment needed

And some in the meeting argued that not only must there be more investment in vocational programs, the president’s effort to cut student loan payments for many throughout the county overlooks many who are seeking schooling to further their careers. 

“The fundamental problem regardless of your views on President Biden’s debt forgiveness — which was illegal; we didn’t appropriate the money — whether it would work or not, it doesn’t actually deal with the real issue,” argued Rep. Warren Davidson, a republican from Ohio. 

Davidson argued that the president’s plan doesn’t account for underwriting and could lead to more defaulted loans. 

In fact, six Republican-led states have recently sued the president, calling the effort an overreach of power, in an effort to stop the student loan relief program. 

Locally, a vocational program at Lehigh County Community College, intended to help get veterans certified as commercial truck drivers, received a share of a $3.1 million grant from the Department of Transportation. 

U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg visited the school back in August, for a look at how the program can help veterans afford training they need in order to obtain a career. 

Congressman Himes said the day’s discussion will help the committee create a report that could lead to future investment into these types of programs. 


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