When asked how she felt about the confirmation of Betsy DeVos as education secretary, junior Ginna Royalty was left almost speechless.
“It’s officially official?” she said. “Really?”
After months of debate and opposition among teacher’s unions, parent groups and students, DeVos was confirmed Tuesday as education secretary, following a historic tie-breaking vote by Vice President Mike Pence. This is the first time in history that a tiebreaker was needed for a cabinet appointment, according to the Senate historian.
Many democrats believe that DeVos is not qualified for the position due to her lack of experience with public schools — something that she will now be tasked with improving in her new position.
DeVos is philanthropist, activist and Republican fundraiser who has dedicated time and money toward charter schools and vouchers, but she has little experience with the public school system, including student loans. Vouchers allow students to use taxpayer dollars to pay tuition at private, religious or for-profit schools, in turn taking money away from the public school system. Many critics now worry about what funding will look like for public schools in the future.
In her confirmation hearings, DeVos was questioned by Senator Elizabeth Warren, among others, about her qualifications for the position. Warren specifically questioned how DeVos would handle managing students loans if neither she nor her children had ever taken any out.
Critics of DeVos also cite her many financial entanglements with the Trump Administration and Washington as reason for her to be unfit for the position.
Since DeVos was confirmed on Tuesday afternoon, Elon University students, faculty and staff have taken to social media to voice their concerns and frustrations with the senate’s choice.
Royalty questioned how DeVos would be able to lead the nation on certain issues she has no experience personally dealing with.
“I find it very hard to believe that she will be able to do her job and represent all children,” Royalty said. “She doesn’t have the experiences, she’s never worked for a school, and I have trouble believing she will be able to be an advocate for those in public schools.”
Other students voiced concerns for their own future and a general frustration with the government. Freshman Jordan Vaughn said she was afraid for what DeVos would do to federal student loans.
“I’m honestly really scared,” Vaughn said. “I am incredibly angry that republicans seem to put aside their beliefs and seemingly ignore obvious red flags. … I am afraid for myself because I don’t know how federal loans will change and that’s the only way I can go to college.”
Though this is a very difficult time for those opposing DeVos, there are still many ways to get involved now that she has been confirmed.
Senior June Schuler offered some ways that students can remain active after this vote. “I think the easiest way to create change is to vote,” Schuler said. “There is a huge focus on presidential elections, when in fact a lot can be achieved in state and local elections. In 2018 there are 33 Senate seats out of 100 that will be up for contention. I believe the time is now to start organizing and educating about similar upcoming state and local elections.”
Though Elon is a private institution, students here may be relying on federal student loans to get them through college. The primary concern of many Elon students is how other students will have access to education similar to theirs.
“I believe education is a right that everyone should have access to,” Schuler said. “Not everyone can afford a private education and that’s why I’m fearful for populations who rely on publicly funded education.”