Elizabeth Warren

Questioning Betsy DeVos at Senate Confirmation Hearing - Jan. 17, 2017

Elizabeth Warren
January 17, 2017— Washington, D.C.
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WARREN: We don't have a second round. I asked my staff to pull the records from the hearing we had with King. You said when you called on me, I think we have time for a second round. Senator Warren, you can be the first in the second round. I heard that, I was the only one who stayed and had questions.

SEN. ALEXANDER: That is why we had time.

WARREN: I understood the people that had questions could ask them. Well we are doing precedents, I understand was the precedent that President Obama’s nominees had ethics forms so we can ask them questions about them in public. I am a little confused them in public. I am a little confused about what precedent means here.

Mrs. Devos, many of my Democratic colleagues have pointed out your lack of experience in K-12 public schools, but I would like to ask about your qualifications for leading the nation in higher education. The Department of Education is in charge of making sure that the $150 billion dollars that we invest in students each year gets into the right hands and that students have the support that they need to be able to pay back their student loans. The Secretary of Education is essentially responsible for managing a $1 trillion student loan bank and distributing $30 billion in Pell Grants to students each year. The financial futures of an entire generation of young people depend on your department getting that right. Now, Mrs. DeVos, do you have any direct experience in running a bank?

MRS. DEVOS: Senator, I do not.

WARREN: How about a billion-dollar loan program?

DEVOS: I have not.

WAREEN: Ok, so no experience managing a program like this. How about participating in one? For you to understand what it is like for students and families who are struggling to pay for college – Mrs. DeVos, have you ever taken out a student loan from the federal government? DEVOS: I have not.

WARREN: Have your children had to borrow money to go to college?

DEVOS: They have been fortunate not to.

WARREN: Have you had any personal experience with a Pell Grant?

DEVOS: Not personal experience, but certainly friends and students with whom have.

WARREN: Do you have personal experience with college rental aid or management of higher education? Let's start with the basics. Do you support protecting federal taxpayer dollars from waste, fraud and abuse?

DEVOS: Absolutely.

WARREN: So do I. Now we all know President Trump's experience with higher education was to create a fake university which resulted in him paying $25 million to students that he cheated. I am curious about how the Trump Administration would protect against waste fraud and abuse with similar for-profit college. So here’s my question: How do you plan to protect taxpayer dollars from waste, fraud, and abuse from colleges that take in millions of dollars of student aid?

DEVOS: If I am confirmed I will certainly be very vigilant.

WARREN: How? How will you do it? You said you are committed.

DEVOS: The individuals with whom I work in the department will ensure that federal money are uses properly and appropriately. I will look forward to working with you--

WARREN: You are going to subcontract making sure that what happened with universities that cheat students doesn’t happen anymore?

DEVOS: No I didn’t say that—

WARREN: You will give that to someone else to do? I just want to know what your ideas are?

DEVOS: I want to make sure we don’t have problems with that as well. And if confirmed, I will work diligently to ensure that we are addressing any of those issues.

WARREN: Well, let me make a suggestion on this. It actually turns out that there are whole groups of rules that are already written and are there, and all you have to do is enforce them. So what I want to know is: will you commit to enforcing these rules to ensure that no career college receives federal funds unless they can prove that they are actually preparing their students for gainful employment and not cheating them?

DEVOS: Senator, I will commit to ensuring that institutions which receive federal funds are actually serving their students well.

WARREN: And so you will enforce the gainful employment rule to make sure that these career colleges are not cheating students?

DEVOS: We will certainly review that rule—

WARREN: You’ll review it? You will not commit to enforce it?

DEVOS: And see that it is actually achieving what the intentions are.

WARREN: I don’t understand about reviewing it. We talked about this in my office. There are already rules in place to stop waste, fraud, and abuse, and I don’t understand how you cannot be sure about enforcing them. You know, swindlers and crooks are out there doing backflips when they hear an answer like this. If confirmed, you will be the cop on the beat, and if you can’t commit to use the tools that are already available to you in the Department of Education, then I don’t see how you can be the Secretary of Education. And I look forward to having a second round of questions.