WASHINGTON (AP) — Education Secretary Betsy DeVos on Thursday highlighted the importance of community colleges in promoting vocational and technical training as a way to lower unemployment and fuel economic growth.
Addressing a forum of education leaders in Washington, DeVos said she supports President Donald Trump's plan to make alternative approaches to postsecondary education a priority. DeVos said community colleges cost less, are flexible and equip job seekers with the skills that the economy needs.
"Community colleges are a uniquely American national asset," DeVos said. "You are nimble, you are inclusive, you are entrepreneurial."
"You are absolutely essential engines for ... economic development locally and regionally," DeVos added. "You help identify and close the skills gap between employers and job seekers so that U.S. businesses and industries can thrive and expand."
DeVos was confirmed for the post last week after a rocky nomination battle involving protests, appeals and opposition from two Republican senators. Vice President Mike Pence cast a tie-breaking vote to confirm DeVos by the slimmest margin.
DeVos sought to frame her experience positively, calling it "an expression of passion."
"Passionate parents and passionate advocates who care deeply about their kids and about education. I applaud it," she said.
During her confirmation hearing in January, DeVos was asked by Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., about whether she would support tuition-free public colleges and universities. DeVos answered: "I think we also have to consider the fact that there is nothing in life that is truly free. Somebody is going to pay for it."