Colleges watch changes in federal administration

Reaction to the nomination of Betsy DeVos for Secretary of Education, stance on higher ed policies unclear

Donald Trump’s pick for secretary of education, billionaire businesswoman and philanthropist Elisabeth “Betsy” DeVos, is more of a household name in K12 than higher ed circles. DeVos has worked to promote school choice and voucher programs, including creation of Detroit’s charter school system. 

She sits on the board of the Foundation for Excellence in Education, whose mission is “to build an American education system that equips every child to achieve his or her God-given potential.”

“Betsy DeVos is a brilliant and passionate education advocate,” Trump said in his announcement. “Under her leadership we will reform the U.S. education system and break the bureaucracy that is holding our children back so that we can deliver world-class education and school choice to all families.”

As for what this means to the higher ed side of the fence, DeVos’ stances and potential actions as head of the department are much less clear—but there’s still much scrutiny over the announcement via social media and formal statements.


Betsy DeVos

I am honored to work with the President-elect on his vision to make American education great again. The status quo in ed is not acceptable.

November 23 at 1:14 p.m.

Newt Gingrich

Betsy DeVos will be great Secretary of Education. Her passion for every child having a good education is proven by years of work in Michigan.

November 23 at 1:39 p.m.

Rep. Tim Walberg (R-Michigan), member of the House Education and the Workforce Committee

@BetsyDeVos is a tireless champion of children and a worthy selection to serve as Secretary of Education.

November 23 at 2:29 p.m.

Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions

I look forward to working with her on the upcoming reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, giving us an opportunity to clear out the jungle of red tape that makes it  more difficult for students to obtain financial aid and for administrators to manage America’s 6,000 colleges and universities.

November 23 at 1:40 p.m.

Higher Ed, Not Debt

Don’t let Donald Trump’s billionaire Dept. of Education nominee control the future of student debt. #ResistTrump

December 1 at 7:45 p.m.


“Senators should also ask about DeVos’ ability to serve and protect all of our students, especially those young people who are particularly vulnerable to bullying and mistreatment, such as lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender students. The nomination of an individual who supports organizations that promote dangerous practices like conversion therapy sends a tremendously discouraging sign to our nation’s students and stands in contrast to President-Elect Trump’s promise to serve as a president for all Americans.” 

—Catherine Brown, vice president of education policy at the Center for American Progress, in a statement
November 23, 2016

“America’s public colleges and universities are gateways to opportunity for millions of students and families, but they need adequate resources to perform that function well. Years of state disinvestment in public education has resulted in higher tuition, reduced affordability and growing student debt, all of which directly impact the futures of millions of students and their families across the country. AASCU stands ready to work with the secretary-designate and her leadership team to promote access, affordability and quality in higher education.” 

—American Association of State Colleges and Universities statement
November 23, 2016

“The impact of DeVos on the U.S. Department of Education could be devastating, as she has no experience in or understanding of education at the K-12 or higher education level. Will she value and expand the Pell Grant program? What will happen to the Guaranteed Student Loan Program with a free market economy administration? … Will she grasp the importance of the growing diversity of the nation? … Will she care about data and research when making decisions? Will she care about the over 600 Minority Serving Institutions that educate over 20% of college students and nearly 40% of students of color? Without an understanding of the societal issues linked to American education, DeVos will fail miserably. … Actions and policies related to education will be regressive rather than progressive in nature.”

—Marybeth Gasman, professor of higher education, University of Pennsylvania, in a LinkedIn post
November 28, 2016

“DeVos will essentially be taking over a hugely bureaucratic lending company—with lots of regulatory power—that on a day-to-day basis could prove to be a far greater burden than she expected. … 

“Where DeVos could do immediate good is in rescinding—or something akin to that—‘Dear Colleague’ letters that have, for instance, pushed colleges to curb legal protections for students accused of sexual assault or harassment, or tried to force national decisions on controversial issues that involve competing rights and concerns, most notably bathroom and locker room access. Washington has a role in combatting discrimination by state and local governments, but should tread much more lightly.”

—Neal McCluskey, director of Cato Institute’s Center for Educational Freedom, in a “Cato at Liberty” blog post

December 5, 2016


Jeb Bush, former governor of the state of Florida

Betsy DeVos is an outstanding pick for Secretary of Education. … Her allegiance is to families, particularly those struggling at the bottom of the economic ladder, not to an outdated public education model that has failed them from one generation to the next.

I cannot think of a more effective and passionate change agent to press for a new education vision, one in which students, rather than adults and bureaucracies, become the priority in our nation’s classrooms.

November 23 at 1:18 p.m.

Senator Ben Sasse (R-Nebraska)

The nomination of Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education is great news for those of us who care about educational freedom, local control for parents and more opportunity for all. But it’s even better news for the millions of low-income kids who for too long have been locked out of their best shot at an education that allows them to compete. This is an excellent pick. 

November 23 at 5:04 p.m.

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