Dec 1, 2020 - Politics & Policy

DeVos slams student debt forgiveness and free college proposals

Photo of Betsy DeVos speaking into a mic while gesturing

Betsy DeVos. Photo: Alex Wong/ Getty

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos slammed free college as a "socialist takeover of higher education" that could harm the nation's economy, in a speech on Tuesday, the Washington Post reports.

Why it matters: Student debt forgiveness and tuition-free college are two key elements of President-elect Joe Biden’s agenda for higher education. Though DeVos didn’t say Biden's name at the virtual financial aid conference, she berated politicians broadly for setting forth “the truly insidious notion of government gift-giving.”

The big picture: The Trump administration has halted payments for student borrowers through the end of the year. DeVos has not commented whether the moratorium will be extended.

  • Under Biden’s proposal, at least some of the $1.6 trillion in student debt would be eliminated for 44 million affected Americans.
  • He backs at least $10,000 in federal loan forgiveness, while more progressive Democrats including Sens. Chuck Schumer, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren have advocated for forgiveness up to $50,000.
  • Biden has also promised to cover tuition at public colleges and universities for students with family incomes below $125,000. Under his proposal, the federal government would cover 54% of the cost while individual states cover the rest.

The other side: DeVos has been blamed by Democrats for limiting loan forgiveness through federal programs since taking office.

  • “We’ve heard shrill calls to cancel, to forgive, to make it all free,” DeVos said. “Any innocuous label out there can’t obfuscate what it really is: Wrong.”
  • “If the politicians proposing free college today get their way, just watch our colleges and universities begin to resemble a failing K-12 school, with the customer service of the DMV to boot,” she said.
  • She also considers tuition-free college “a matter of total government control."

The bottom line: DeVos' comments likely won't amount to much since she will be leaving public office shortly, but time will tell whether Biden is able to implement student debt forgiveness and free college.

Go deeper