Betsy DeVos, President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee for education secretary, emerged from her confirmation hearings with Republicans praising her commitment to school choice and with Democrats voicing concerns over what they see as a lack of experience to ensure equity for students of all backgrounds and abilities.
Higher education did not receive as much attention as K-12 education during the hearing, but DeVos admitted that she does not have experience running a program similar to the federal student loan program.
She also stated, when asked, that she has never taken out a federal student loan for her own education or for that of her children.
DeVos hedged when asked about free public college education.
“Will you work with me and others to make public colleges and universities tuition-free through federal and state efforts?” asked Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).
“I think that is a really interesting idea and it’s really great to consider and think about. But we also have to consider the fact that there is nothing in life that’s truly free. Somebody has got to pay for it,” she replied.
“Right now we have proposals in front of us to substantially lower tax breaks for billionaires in this country, while at the same time low-income kids can’t afford to college,” Sanders replied. “Do you think that makes sense?
After some back and forth, DeVos declared that “we can work together and we can work hard on making sure college or higher education in some form is affordable for all young people that want to pursue it.”
(Next page: Strong reactions from both sides)