On February 7th, President Donald Trump’s controversial pick for Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, was confirmed by the Senate by a 51-50 margin. The confirmation brings praise from some and outrage from others.
DeVos, the Michigan-born daughter of billionaire Edgar Prince and wife of multi-billionaire Dick DeVos, has been criticized as unqualified to head the Department of Education. According to Snopes.com, DeVos never attended a public school, instead getting an education in private K-12 schools before attending a private high school and graduating from Calvin College, a private Christian institution, with a degree in Business Administration and Political Science.
DeVos supporters look to her history of advocacy for education reform as evidence she is qualified. DeVos is a long-time proponent for “school choice”, or letting parents pick and choose which school to send their children to. Having sent her own children to private schools, DeVos has pushed to open the market to for-profit charter schools and to eliminate government oversight of charter schools.
Critics also claim DeVos must have bought her way into the cabinet seat. According to USA Today, DeVos disclosed during the nomination process that she and her husband had donated $5.3 million dollars to GOP causes and campaigns. However, DeVos did not publicly support Trump opting instead to support Marco Rubio.
DeVos’s confirmation hearing was also marred by controversy. When asked if she thought guns should be allowed on school premises, DeVos referred to a school in Wyoming and said, “I would imagine that there’s probably a gun in the school to protect from potential grizzlies.”
What does DeVos’s confirmation mean for college students? During the hearing, she deflected questions from Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) regarding free college tuition saying,
“I think we can work together and we could work hard on making sure that college or higher education in some form is affordable for all young people that want to pursue it, and I would look forward to that opportunity if confirmed,”
When asked by Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) if she would uphold Title IX’s guidance concerning sexual assaults on college campuses, DeVos said,
“If confirmed, I would look forward to working with you and your colleagues and understand the range of opinions and understand the issues from the higher ed institutions that are charged with resolving these and addressing them and I would look forward to working together to find some resolutions.”
Snow College Student Aspen Nielsen said, “I feel like Betsy Devos has a fundamental misunderstanding of how public education works. She has never been to a public school, never been in a real leadership position, and her policies are, quite frankly, outdated. They do not work for the average, middle class American.”