President Biden recently announced his nomination of James Kvaal, an expert in postsecondary education policy, for one of the top posts in the U.S. Department of Education. As under secretary, Kvaal will sit at the helm of federal postsecondary education policy at a moment when the calls for action from the department are louder and more forceful than ever. He could either work to enable the dramatic movement that the left is calling for, or hobble it in favor of more incremental changes. History suggests it will be the latter. Kvaal is known for his ability to separate politics from policy, leverage practical thinking, and work with those across the aisle.
Kvaal’s nomination should be no surprise. He has a reputation of taking thoughtful, measured positions on policy. This approach is in line with Biden’s moderate positioning on postsecondary education. Despite leading a left-leaning organization — the Institute for College Access and Success (TICAS) — Kvaal refrained from jumping on the bandwagon to call for widespread student loan forgiveness. Although his left-of-center positioning on many issues may be disappointing for those who want radical action from the department on student loans, the rest of America should be encouraged by his track record of compromise and look forward to his direction of postsecondary education policy.