Betsy DeVos to Bernie Sanders: 'There's Nothing in Life That's Truly Free'

January 18, 2017

Donald Trump's nominee to head the Department of Education, Betsy DeVos, told Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.) at her Senate confirmation hearing Tuesday that "there's nothing in life that's truly free" when the Vermont senator asked if she would support his efforts to make public college education free for all students.

Sanders first read a portion of DeVos' prepared statement, which said: "Students should make informed choices about what kind of education they want to pursue post-high school, and have access to high-quality options."

"Some of us believe we should make public colleges and universities tuition-free, so that every young person in this country, regardless of income, does have that option. That's not the case today," Sanders said. "Will you work with me and others to make public colleges and universities tuition-free, through federal and state efforts?"

"Senator, I think that's a really interesting idea, and it's really great to consider and think about," DeVos responded. "But I think we also have to consider the fact that there's nothing in life that's truly free."

DeVos, a billionaire conservative activist who supports funding charter schools to diversify education options, is a controversial choice to head the Education Department for liberal senators like Elizabeth Warren (Mass.), Patty Murray (Wash.), and Sanders.

DeVos said at her confirmation hearing that school gun policies should be left to the states and would not rule out cutting funds to public schools in order to privatize them, positions that Senate Democrats at the hearing disagreed with.

Trump's choice for education secretary was chair of the American Federation for Children, an advocacy group that promotes the movement to privatize public education and the use of public funds for vouchers to pay for private school tuition. She also led the growth of charter schools in Michigan, although many of these schools' students test scores were below the state's average.

Sanders appealed to many millennials throughout his 2016 presidential campaign by saying that public college education should be made free.

"Somebody's going to pay for it," DeVos noted at her hearing.