Betsy DeVos, U.S. Education Secretary nominee, has been confirmed by the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions.
Most media attention has been focused on her championship of charter schools in Michigan, instead of higher education. A letter from Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren pending her hearing said that her background “offers few clues” on her position. “I am troubled by your seemingly non-existent record on higher education,” she says.
Her hearings, however, have now put DeVos on record. Here are three quotes—subjects higher education watchers may need to pay attention to over the next few months.
On student debt levels
Escalating tuition is pricing aspiring and talented students out of college. Others are burdened with debts that will take years—or even decades—to pay off.
There is no magic wand to make the debt go away, but we do need to take action. It would be a mistake to shift that burden to struggling taxpayers without first addressing why tuition has gotten so high.
In her testimony [pdf], DeVos directly addresses the issue of students being priced out of college. It appears from this statement she does not favor tax-funded relief for student debt.
During the hearing, DeVos said that student debt had risen by 980 percent in the past years. Democratic Senator Al Franken replied the increase was in fact 118 percent. It’s possible one reason for the error is that she was quoting the rise in the cost of college itself over 30 years.
On the ‘gainful employment’ regulations
We will certainly review that rule, and see if it is actually achieving what the intentions are.
DeVos was asked by Senator Elizabeth Warren (above) whether she would enforce federal rules that only grant student aid to private non-profit and public institutions that prepare students for “gainful employment in a recognized occupation.” Her answer suggests she will question the rules, rather than make sure they are followed.
On vocational courses
We need to embrace new pathways of learning. For too long a college degree has been pushed as the only avenue for a better life. The old and expensive brick-mortar-and-ivy model is not the only one that will lead to a prosperous future. Craftsmanship is not a fallback—but a noble pursuit.
Students should make informed choices about what type of education they want to pursue post high school and have access to high quality options. President-elect Trump and I agree we need to support all post-secondary avenues, including trade and vocational schools, and community colleges.
Perhaps continuing her theme of “choice” in high schools. DeVos explained in her testimony that she would focus on all post-secondary education, including vocational schools. Beyond this statement, there is nothing more on record about her views, or plans, on the matter.
Watch the hearing (discussion starts from 39m 30s mark)
Photos: www.help.senate.gov; Public Domain
Note: This blog post was edited on February 1, 2017 to clarify that Betsy DeVos remains a nominee for the position.