Betsy DeVos, President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee to head the Department of Education, had… let’s say ‘lively’ questions from Senate Democrats at Tuesday’s confirmation hearings.
One of the most interesting moments came during Senator Bernie Sanders’ questions. Sanders, an admitted socialist and proponent of tuition-free college, challenged DeVos, saying, “some of us believe we should make public colleges and universities tuition-free, so that every young person in this country regardless of income does have that option.”
“Will you work with me and others to make public colleges and universities tuition-free through federal and state efforts?” Sanders asked.
DeVos responded, “I think that’s a really interesting idea, and it’s really great to consider and think about, but I think we also have to consider the fact that nothing in life is really free.”
In the back-and-forth, DeVos also pressed that she wanted to focus on reforming higher education to make college more affordable.
And that’s the real divide: Will making college “free” make college affordable? Or, will it just shift the rising tuition costs to taxpayers (including other millennials who already had to pay for college themselves)? And further, will “free” tuition actually make colleges focus more on training young Americans for real jobs and the real world?
Spending more federal money and nationalizing student loans — which Sanders and President Obama championed — has only made tuition prices go up faster than ever. Meanwhile, America’s competitiveness continues to fall, and the student loan debt balloon soars to historic heights.
The Sanders/Obama approach hasn’t worked because their policies don’t control costs — they incentivize them. Right now, colleges can raise costs at will because students can always qualify for more and more student loans. Can you imagine if ‘no one’ pays the bill for college because it’s ‘free’? College will become more expensive than ever before.
We’ve listened to Sanders and the progressive approach to higher education for decades. Maybe it’s time to give DeVos’ policies on accountability and reform a chance.
Here is the full Sanders/DeVos exchange: