Before Betsy DeVos was confirmed as Sectary of Education in February 2017, many did not hide their doubts regarding whether DeVos could be an effective leader for the Department of Education. However, it is only fair to give someone a chance to prove their leadership in a new position.
Secretary DeVos different stances on education are front and center, especially her stance on k-12 education vouchers and school choice. During his campaign, Trump promised to reduce excess spending by the Department of Education and hold education intuitions accountable for their student success. DeVos is expected by the Trump administration to reach those goals but also keep the best interest of the American public. Since her nomination, what has DeVos accomplish for higher education?
One of the biggest issues in higher education is college affordability. There is an estimated $1.5 trillion outstanding student loan debt and an increase in college costs that desperately needs attention. However, most of the Department of Education time has been spent on student debt instead of figuring out ways to provide more savings for Americans. It is disappointing to see the lack of focus on savings because it would be significantly less expensive for both the government and the average American. It is important to note that student debt has spiraled out of control and is on track to exceed both credit card and auto loan debt combined. While DeVos focus on student debt may be good, there needs to be a focus on both savings for the American public and student debt control.
In April, DeVos rescinded an Obama-era guidance that directly affected how the Department of Education would select student loan providers. The reasoning behind ending the guidance was to simplify the prices of selecting servicers. However, it risks losing consumer’s protections and the benefits of competitive bidding.
DeVos presented her budget to lawmakers on May 24 and June 6 201. The budget was vilified as it included massive cuts to education in the amount of $9.2 billion. It included that the federal government discontinue subsidizing interest on student loans and ending public student loan forgiveness. However, there are some parts of the budget that may be good for students like simplifying student loan repayments. It also provides that Pell Grants will be available year round. The proposed change would allow that students could use the grant during the summer sessions. While that may be good news, the Department of Education would decrease the funding for the Pell grant.
In March, the Department of Education announced that it would delay enforcing the Gainful Employment Rule disclosure requirement. The GER required that colleges had to maintain a certain level of employment among their graduates or risk losing their financial aid eligibility. The Department of Education explained the delay as needed because it was still reviewing the rule. There is some evidence that merely having these rules in existence is enough for schools to voluntarily shut down programs that would be affected by the rules. During his campaign, Trump promised that colleges would have more skin in the game and redistribute the risks more evenly. However, it appears that DeVos continuous delay would be the opposite of what the Trump administration has promised but is consistent with reducing regulation.
However, DeVos delay is not without controversy, she and the Department of Education are facing lawsuits from 18 states for failure to enforce regulations.
DeVos appointed Dr. A Wayne Johnson as the Chief Operating Officer of Federal Student Aid. When the announcement was made, Johnson was still the CEO of private student loans. DeVos was criticized, and the announcement was poorly handled because Dr. Johnson has not resigned from his position at the time. However, Dr. Johnson is experienced and has held positions in financial leaderships.
For the office of Civil Rights, DeVos appointed Candice E Jackson. Shortly after, Ms. Jackson released a memorandum on transgendered student complaints that appear to threaten their rights. While her appointments may be qualified but they are filled with controversy.
Secretary DeVos last six months have been filled with many missteps and much controversy, which seems to enforce the doubts many have of her leadership. However, there are some good done as if simplifying student repayment and holding colleges, more accountable but only time will tell if DeVos can do that effectively.