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In First Higher-Ed Address as Education Secretary, DeVos Praises Community Colleges

Betsy DeVos was brief but prepared on Thursday in remarks to the Association of Community College Trustees’ National Legislative Summit, her first speech on higher-education issues since being confirmed as education secretary.

Ms. DeVos spoke for eight and a half minutes to the crowd gathered for a conference here in Washington, D.C., where she praised community colleges, noting their importance to President Trump’s plan for the first 100 days of his administration. “This plan notes the importance of expanding vocational and technical education, the types of career and technical education that community colleges excel at providing,” she said.

Ms. DeVos faced a contentious nomination process in which Vice President Mike Pence had to cast a tie-breaking vote to assure her Senate confirmation. During her confirmation hearings, Ms. DeVos was criticized as seeming ill prepared (some members of Thursday’s audience chuckled when it was announced that Ms. DeVos could not stay for questions because of a prior engagement).

Some audience members said they were encouraged that she appeared knowledgeable in her address to the community-college leaders. “She was well prepared for this, which I think was encouraging for those of us who were concerned during the hearings,” said Ruth Purcell, executive director of the BC3 Education Foundation, a nonprofit organization that provides funding for Butler Community College, in Pennsylvania.

Ms. DeVos also spoke to the importance of community colleges in working with public high schools and briefly acknowledged the American Association of Community Colleges’ legislative priorities, but gave no specifics on the Department of Education’s position on them.

“Today is the beginning of what I’m confident will be years of productive collaboration and a healthy exchange of ideas between our country’s colleges and universities and the Department of Education,” she said.

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