Progressives slam Betsy DeVos after she described free college as a 'socialist takeover'

In a virtual speech on Tuesday, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos made time to decry tuition-free college and student debt relief. As reported by The Washington Post, she described tuition-free college as a “socialist takeover of higher education” as well as “a matter of total government control.” DeVos also argued that if college does go tuition-free, higher education will “begin to resemble a failing K-12 school, with the customer service of the DMV to boot.” Surprising no one, DeVos also slammed student debt relief initiatives, saying that politicians who promote it are setting the stage for “the truly insidious notion of government gift-giving.”

Also surprising no one, DeVos was met with swift backlash on Twitter. While countless people shared their stories of student debt and the barrier to access education, which particularly impacts people of color and low-income folks, elected officials also called out DeVos for her misguided, harmful rhetoric at the financial aid conference. Let’s dig into some responses from progressives, as well as what President-Elect Joe Biden’s plan so far actually is, below.

DeVos didn’t actually call out Biden by name during the conference, but given the recent push from Sens. Elizabeth Warren, Chuck Schumer, and Bernie Sanders to move left on debt forgiveness, many are curious what student debt relief will look like in a Biden administration. So far, Biden has called for tuition-free public college for families that earn less than $125,000 per year. He’s supported eliminating $10,000 in federal student loans for all borrowers, as well as enhanced federal loan forgiveness programs.

During the primary, neither Biden nor Harris were particularly forward on student debt relief, but many progressives are pushing hard for the Biden-Harris administration to lead the way, especially with the angle of much-needed relief amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Schumer and Warren have recently advocated for up to $50,000 in federal student debt relief per person, for example, with Warren long having campaigned that the president can actually accomplish student debt relief via executive order. Why does this matter? If Republicans maintain a hold of the Senate, many are concerned that student debt relief will fizzle out—but executive action, according to Warren, is a way around that hurdle. 

People did not hold back on Twitter.

Because we were all just dying to know what the unqualified billionaire who made this problem worse thinks about helping people. https://t.co/rm6UiIywlC

— Elizabeth Warren (@SenWarren) December 2, 2020

Tuition-free public college is a dangerous socialist takeover of higher ed, as opposed to the far superior capitalist takeover of higher ed, which reliably buries millions of Americans in trillions of dollars in debt & graduates them into low paying jobs without good healthcare👍🏽 https://t.co/dcu6PIRKcC

— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) December 1, 2020

DeVos has been committing an all-out assault on our public schools for 4 years. It’s critical that we get her out, but we must go further. We need a Department of Education that prioritizes the wellbeing of all public schools, students, and educators.https://t.co/kTibs2cQzD

— Rep. Pramila Jayapal (@RepJayapal) December 1, 2020

As a member of the Education and Labor committee, I am excited to not have to sit through her testimonies anymore 😅 Bye Betsy. https://t.co/valYI6Teor

— Ilhan Omar (@IlhanMN) December 2, 2020

Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.#CancelStudentDebthttps://t.co/zSzHiaBnTv

— Ayanna Pressley (@AyannaPressley) December 2, 2020

Memo to Secretary DeVos: President Joe Biden can #CancelStudentDebt on Day 1. That one act would do more to help Americans than anything you’ve done.https://t.co/PTqlyEK5KC

— Chuck Schumer (@SenSchumer) December 2, 2020

Billionaire Betsy DeVos and her family own ten yachts. She has inherited everything she owns. But she doesn’t believe students should be able to get an education without a mountain of debt. In 50 days, our students will be better represented by a new Education Secretary. https://t.co/i2n3JUw2Ot

— Julián Castro (@JulianCastro) December 2, 2020

Cori Bush slams Betsy DeVos for owning a $40 million yacht, calls it a “classist display of excess by someone who has spent her life defunding our schools and exploiting our students for profit.” https://t.co/5qgnSNBRKU

— Cori Bush (@CoriBush) December 2, 2020

Hmm. What do you call a billionaire who registered a $40 million, 164-foot yacht in the Cayman Islands to avoid $2.4 million in U.S. taxes, while undermining public schools? The worst Education Secretary in the history of America. Bye-bye, Betsy DeVos. You won’t be missed. https://t.co/KCbsTs4aCY

— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) December 2, 2020

Source: dailykos