DeVos Calls for ‘Major Shift’ In Higher Education

US News

The education secretary argued for a renewed focus on apprenticeship programs.

By Lauren Camera, Education Reporter |Nov. 14, 2017, at 4:08 p.m.

“For decades now, we have given the subtle, or not so subtle, message that the only path for a successful life is a four-year degree,” DeVos said at the Wall Street Journal CEO Council conference in Washington.

“There is really no traditional student anymore,” she said, underscoring the small percentage of high school graduates who enroll full time in a four-year college and graduate within four years.

DeVos said educators should be “honoring” the various pathways to careers and that they should increase the importance and focus on workforce training programs like apprenticeships.

“To a large extent we have stigmatized them for the past couple of decades,” she said of apprenticeship, career and technical programs. “We have a lot of students who would benefit from being exposed to those different options.”

 DeVos pushed the business leaders at the conference to engage the education community around them, including by building partnerships with community colleges and other local workforce training institutions.
“The fact that we have many students that graduate high school, don’t know what they want to pursue … we have to give students a much wider venue of opportunity, starting in high school and middle school, to help guide them into a productive future.”

Her remarks echo those made Monday during a meeting of the White House Task Force on Apprenticeship Expansion, where she similarly called for the education community to quit pushing students to earn a four-year degree and instead renew a focus on apprenticeship programs.

The administration’s focus on apprenticeships and other workforce training programs is an effort, not unlike those of the previous administration, to help fill roughly 6 million job openings in the U.S. and put a dent in the skills gap.

Indeed, 30 million good-paying jobs are available in the U.S. for those without four-year degrees, according to a new report by Georgetown University‘s Center on Education and the Workforce.

During her remarks, DeVos also addressed rumors about her potential resignation that gained traction last week after reports posted online appeared to misrepresent part of a profile of DeVos published by Politico.

DeVos said she is “absolutely not” resigning.

“The opportunity to try to make the education future better for kids all across this country, that’s been my life’s work for 30 years,” she said.