The Republican chairwoman of the House Education and the Workforce Committee says higher education has “never been held in such low esteem as it is now,” providing an opening as she pushes for legislation. 

Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-Va.) told Inside Higher Ed in an interview published Thursday that now is “exactly the right time” for Congress to pass a reauthorization of the Higher Education Act of 1965, which President Lyndon Johnson signed into law to provide resources to colleges and universities and financial aid to students to attend institutions of 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,” Foxx 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.” 

The law is meant to be reauthorized every five years, but it it most recently received reauthorization in 2008. 

Foxx said now is the right time for the reauthorization to advance after years of efforts failing in Congress because the coronavirus pandemic highlighted the gaps that exist in higher education and lowered public opinion about it. 

Foxx’s comments come as education has taken center stage in the culture wars, ushered in by parental pushback to pandemic closures and mask mandates. 

Multiple Republican governors have taken action in recent years to curtail education diversity initiatives and limit the teaching of critical race theory and LGBTQ issues.

Foxx said she hopes to work with colleagues on both the “far right” and “far left.”

She said she has spoken to Education Secretary Miguel Cardona but differs greatly on education policy with the Biden administration. 

“I get along with them fine, but their worldview is so different from the worldview of the majority of the people in this country that it’s really difficult to understand where they’re coming from,” Foxx said.