Education Secretary Betsy DeVos on Monday gave the keynote address at the opening session of the Education Writers Association’s annual conference in Baltimore. In DeVos’s first appearance at the conference, she spoke mainly about policy issues within the K-12 education sphere, but briefly touched on higher education issues including career and technical education, college accountability and transparency, and borrower defense to repayment claims.
“As much as many in the media use my name as clickbait or try to make it all about me, it’s not. Education is not about Betsy DeVos nor any other individual,” DeVos said in her prepared remarks. “It’s about students. It’s about acknowledging the innate value of every single one of them. And embracing the belief that each one has an important role to play—a purpose. If you accept that, then each of them should have the freedom to develop and achieve their fullest potential. That is why I’m here.”
After her brief address, DeVos joined the group for a question-and-answer session moderated by Erica Green of The New York Times, during which she focused on issues ranging from school safety and Title IX to teacher compensation and charter schools.
Green also asked DeVos to weigh in on the recent college admissions scandal and how it has factored into conversations about college accountability within the Trump administration.
“It underscores what many people feel: that the system is not fair,” DeVos said. “It goes back to the reality that we should expect accountability and transparency for every institution, not just based on the tax status of the institution.”
DeVos went on to say that while there has been a large amount of criticism directed toward for-profit institutions, “very little has been really investigated and opined upon with regard to schools that are more elite in their student population.”
“You cannot look at higher ed institutions across the board and act as though they are all serving students the same way and in the same kind of approach,” she said. “It’s important to remember that many of the for-profit institutions and others that are open enrollment schools … they’re taking students that might not have an option or an opportunity somewhere else. We should be expecting the best and continually improving results from every kind of institution, and stay focused on the fact that students need to have a wide range of choices to meet their individual needs.”
She added that “arguably, higher ed writ large has not really kept up with the 21st century demands in the marketplace.”
Green also asked DeVos about the thousands of pending borrower defense to repayment claims that the Department of Education (ED) has yet to process, and when borrowers might expect to receive updates.
DeVos said—as many other ED officials have said when asked about borrower defense—that many claims are in limbo due to pending court cases. She added, however, that some of the backlog can be attributed to work the administration did in developing a framework to process the claims. DeVos and ED officials have said before that while the Obama administration wrote regulations regarding borrower defense, the regulations did not address the infrastructure or detailed process necessary to move through approving and denying claims.
Publication Date: 5/7/2019