If you’ve ever seen a graduate worker desperately reading a stack of books, you’ve probably seen them studying for their comprehensive exams. Betsy DeVos had her own version of comprehensive exams, taking questions from the Senate Committee on Education, Labor and Pension, and she failed.
She was unable to answer basic questions about K-12 education, while taking non-position positions on a range of policy questions. Higher education — a source of real and urgent challenges — was almost entirely glossed over during the short time that senators had to ask questions. In the language of a comp grader she “failed to discuss relevant research, or well; any research at all.”
As graduate workers at Penn State, we understand the challenges that are facing us, and we demand a secretary of education who not only is aware of the problems, but has solutions to them. The slow retrenchment of funding for public higher education has seen not only increasing tuition costs, but also more and more work being placed on graduate workers, many who are earning below a living wage.
Given these challenges, we need a secretary of education who can pass comps. We need one who will strive to make higher education accessible to all without sacrificing the dignity of the workers who make that education possible.
Kevin Reuning, State College
The writer is a doctoral candidate in political science at Penn State. He submitted this letter on behalf of the Coalition of Graduate Employees.