UB students and faculty react to Betsy DeVos’ confirmation
The future of K-12 and college education in America rests in the hands of a controversial leader: Betsy DeVos
DeVos was confirmed as Secretary of Education on Tuesday. DeVos was a particularly controversial candidate for the position due to her explicit lack of knowledge about the current K-12 system, college education system and loan programs. Vice President Mike Pence broke the tie to elect DeVos, who supports state rights and educational movements including voucher programs for private schools and Christian-focused schools.
“She said very little at all in her confirmation hearing about higher education, but the fear among some in higher education is that she might choose not to enforce certain provisions of the law that protect students, and by extension, many institutions of higher learning, against predatory for-profit schools that take students' money but do little to ready them for the workforce,” said Jacob Neiheisel, a political science professor, in an email.
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DeVos, throughout her hearing, has been unclear about which laws she will uphold. In particular, she would not comment on maintaining Title IX, which requires colleges to take an active role to prevent sexual assault.
“Rule enforcement and rule-making are within her purview as the Secretary of Education, but she is going to need some help from Congress if she wants to influence things like federal dollars that are devoted to student aid,” Neiheisel said.
Dr. Corey Bower, assistant professor of graduate education, wants his students to “make up their own mind about policy based on research evidence without knowing whether I have a personal preference or what it is.”
Bower signed a letter, alongside other professors and hundreds of other educational researchers, opposing DeVos’ nomination.
“I signed the letter largely because she's proven that she's not qualified,” Bower said in an email. “Her knowledge, or lack thereof, of federal education policy in her Senate hearing was, frankly, embarrassing.”
DeVos, during her hearing, was dismissive of ideas regarding free education. This directly opposes Governor Andrew Cuomo’s latest initiative, which looks to help students in the SUNY and CUNY systems attend school without the burden of tuition and student debt.
DeVos looks to set up a “competitive grant program” that will encourage states to expand school choices, according to NPR.
Sarah Drozda, a senior political science major, is interested in becoming an educator herself. She feels DeVos “does not understand the importance of education.”
“As college students, it is important to look at the fact that most of us will leave college with stifling student loan debt and this woman has no clear stance or position on what she will do with the student loan program, which is definitely something that I think should alarm people,” Drozda said.
DeVos is a businesswoman and philanthropist. Her experience in Michigan has not allowed her to gain experience in the education department and she was often criticized during her Senate hearings for being unqualified.
Drozda feels someone who has experience within the system would be better suited.
“While I don't believe she needs to have been an educator, I think it is important that we have someone who understands the struggles that teachers and students go through, especially at the public school level where most children receive their education,” Drozda said.
DeVos is one of many controversial nominations from President Donald Trump. Others include Department of State head and Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson and Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
DeVos has the power to impact 50 million public school students and 20 million college students, according to NPR. The results of her confirmation can only be seen as time goes on – though she wields power, it will be balanced by others in her department.