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Secretary of Education Betsy Devos received the most opposition to her nomination than any other Trump appointee that reached the Senate Vote. She’s incited boos and protests at many of her public appearances as Secretary of Education. Since Vice President Mike Pence cast the deciding vote to confirm her nomination, Devos has beyond justified the opposition to her tenure in the first few months serving in her new position.
Last week, Devos announced $10.6 billion in cuts to educational programs all over the country. The Washington Post reported the victims of these drastic cuts include taking $12 million in funding away from the special olympics, $65 million from two programs that benefit natives in Hawaii and Alaska, and cuts $15 million from a program that provides low-income parents attending college care for their children. The budget proposes eliminating all funding for a fund created by congress to help schools pay for student support services, like mental health, and academic support.
At a time when millions of working and middle class Americans are burdened by massive student debt, as college tuition costs continue to soar and increasingly become too expensive for many students to attend, Betsy Devos’ budget proposal intends to worsen that burden.
Her budget proposal includes entirely scrapping a Public Loan Forgiveness Program signed into law by George W. Bush in 2007. The law provides relief for government employees, like teachers who aren’t paid enough in salary to afford paying over massive student debt, and non-profit workers to have their loans forgiven based on their income in 10 years.
This decision is likely to diminish the number of people who go into these already under served sectors while increasing default rates. Student debt in the United States is already at $1.4 trillion, and many people have predicted that the the debt bubble is going to pop. Trying to force those already having trouble paying student loans or not financially in a position to do so is only going to worsen the problem. Out of 44 million people in the United States with student loan debt, 8 million have defaulted on those loans. The average debt load for students is only increasing along with tuition costs, and is hurting the economy in other ways as well, especially millennials who are fairing worse off than their parents. Despite being better educated than their boomer parents, millennials earn 20 percent less than their parents did at the same age in life, according to a Federal Reserve data analysis conducted by the advocacy group, Young Invincibles.
The response to the plight millennials are facing have been elitist condescension, such as a millionaire in Time Magazine recently claiming millennials are unable to afford buying homes because they spend too much money on avocados. Attacking millennials is a favorite elite past time, as publications directed at wealthy audiences and mainstream media outlets have pandered to this elite mode of thinking, even when reporting on issues that have little to do with millennials. Betsy Devos, an out-of-touch billionaire, subscribes to this mode of thinking, and has implemented its philosophy into public policy toward education.
In addition to repealing student debt forgiveness, Devos repealed protections enacted under the Obama Administration for student loan consumers, siding with the lenders, allowing them to start charging significant fees on delinquent borrowers, and diminishing the standards for what private lenders could receive government contracts.
While Devos announced drastic cuts, she has made way for investing in her own educational philosophy under the false pretenses of “school choice.” The budget proposes increasing charter school funding by 50 percent, and she’s expected to roll out incentives for corporations and individuals who support the same “school choice” views she propagated as chair of the lobbying group, American Federal for Children. Devos’ background is in religious private schools, having exclusively attended them and donated to them. The catalyst for private and religious schools were a response to desegregation efforts in the 1950’s and 1960’s. As Felicia Wong noted in a CNN op-ed, “an estimated half-million white students left public schools between 1964 and 1975 to enroll in schools that were known as ‘segregation academies.’ This move to private schools was part of a larger ‘white flight’ movement.” She added that segregation is re-emerging in the United States as racially isolated schools have become more prevalent across the country, especially in regions where “school choice” reforms have been implemented.
Devos’ approach to the United States Education System is to benefit the private corporations that have leeched off it for personal profit at the expense of the public. From the student debt collecting agency she was personally invested in, to the for-profit schools that benefit from tax credits, vouchers, and other financial incentives, Devos is further increasing the polarizing class divide in the education system to benefit those already wealthy and powerful.