Opinion: Betsy DeVos stands firm on education reform

Gerard Scimeca
To newly emboldened Democrats who view education as their exclusive fiefdom, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has become a political pinata, Scimeca says.

Even prior to the Democrats winning back the House in last year’s midterms, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has long been on the left’s “hit” list. The publication Inside Higher Ed dubbed DeVos one of the “biggest losers” of the midterm election. 

To newly emboldened Democrats who view education as their exclusive fiefdom, DeVos has become a political pinata. In hearing after hearing, DeVos is vilified by ultra-left education “experts” who wage full-court character assaults that are happily repeated by the media.

The Democrats’ orchestrated rebuke of DeVos should be taken as sober reassurance she is on the right track. America is paying the price for an education establishment that plays by its own rules with very little accountability. Democratic policies led us to sky-high tuition, low college completion rates, and publicly supported university campuses that serve as indoctrination outposts for socialist economics, politically correct speech and hateful intolerance. 

With national student loan debt at $1.5 trillion, a tab that surpasses our cumulative credit card debt, one wonders why Democrats are manically focused on bashing DeVos while ignoring the substantive issues affecting higher education.

The Democratic education agenda is all about funding, funding and more funding, as much as can be taxed or borrowed. They talk a good game about oversight and accountability, but the conversation always ends with a hefty defense of the status quo. They oppose all measures of consumer empowerment, such as school vouchers, remain beholden to teachers unions, and cheer federal interference on accreditation. They file lawsuits to undo DeVos’ reforms, they lobby the IRS to disqualify for-profit college transitions to nonprofit status, and they pressure the Veterans Administration to eliminate GI Bill funds for certain schools serving tens of thousands of veterans each year.   

Ousted Obama-era education bureaucrats now working as “consultants” demonize career-oriented colleges and lobby for changes in the Higher Education Act to effectively run them out of business. Should they succeed, tens of thousands of students, including low-income students, women, working adults and veterans would be left with few options to earn a degree and advance their careers. It would also exacerbate America’s current shortage of 6 million skilled workers.

Rep. Bobby Scott of Virginia routinely attacks for-profit education, but even Scott is forced to acknowledge a great school in his own district — ECPI University. ECPI enrolls nearly 12,000 students and has a top-rated technology school. Monroe College in the Bronx places 100 percent of its graduating nurses in jobs — almost all of them minority women.

Keiser University has earned a NICHE rating as the number three online school in the country and operates 20 campuses in Florida with nursing, culinary arts and criminal justice programs all highly rated. Full Sail University — also in Florida — focuses on the arts and entertainment industry, offering students degrees in cinematography, animation, video graphics and special effects.

Grand Canyon University in Arizona has more than 20,000 students attending classes on campus and an additional 75,000 students enrolled online. Many of these colleges have operated for decades, so if bilking students were the true business model, they would have disappeared long ago.

In their savagery of DeVos, Democrats never mention the dozens upon dozens of community colleges or public universities with atrocious graduation rates, well below 20% and a good many under 15%. These include schools such as the University of Maine at Augusta (12%) and College of Southern Nevada (9%), and Oklahoma State University at Oklahoma City (10.6%).

Miami Dade College’s 30.1% graduation rate is actually touted as success. This is the left’s definition of success when only 3 in 10 students receive a degree?  Apparently education elites don’t worry about low success rates if the schools are supported by taxpayers.

The battle regarding higher education will determine if Democrats succeed in maintaining their government-run monopoly that drives students into taxpayer funded institutions run by elite academics and tenured professors who dictate the terms. DeVos is wise to ignore blatant Democratic hypocrisy as she works to empower students by reining in regulations that strangle innovation and competition.

DeVos should be praised for taking on the fight to give consumers “more freedom” in education, consistent with President Donald Trump’s agenda of cutting red-tape across the economy. If DeVos and the president prevail, innovation and competition will benefit students across all walks of life, whatever their dreams or aspirations.

Gerard Scimeca is vice president of Consumer Action for a Strong Economy, a free-market oriented consumer advocacy organization. He wrote this for InsideSources.com.