It was announced that Education Secretary Betsy DeVos will deliver the keynote address for Bethune-Cookman University’s commencement on Wednesday, May 10th. Bethune-Cookman is one of the historically black institutions that has recently been praised by Secretary DeVos for providing education opportunities for the Afro-American community.
In making the announcement about Secretary DeVos’ appearance, the school compared her to the school’s founder saying that “much like Dr. Bethune, founder of Bethune-Cookman University, Secretary DeVos deems the importance of opportunity and hope for students to receive an exceptional education experience. Her mission to empower parents and students resonates with the history and legacy of Dr. Bethune.” Dr. Bethune’s started the school in Daytona Beach, Florida, which grew to over 250 students while she served as the university president and was one of the few tertiary institutes in the country where black women could study.
The school also noted the importance of funding from the Federal Education Department to the very existence of Historically Black Universities and Colleges (HBCU) and to Bethune-Cookman specifically. In their official statement announcing the DeVos invitation, the school explained “students are directly impacted by funding dollars that are dispersed through the Department of Education. B-CU receives $4 million annually through Title III, which supports teaching, research and infrastructure. Additionally, Title IV impacts the ability of B-CU students to receive federal financial aid, overall influencing the ascension of Bethune-Cookman University students.”
The school praised Betsy DeVos, individually, for her charitable contributions to the black community. In the press release, the university pointed out that “Over the years, the DeVos family has supported Central Florida through several charitable efforts: 100 Black Men of Central Florida; Jones High School, and the Parramore neighborhood located in Orlando to name a few. Secretary DeVos has supported educational opportunities for students in over 25 states.” Secretary DeVos is daughter of the co-founder of Amway, Richard DeVos, and a philanthropist who has focused on educational opportunity.
Secretary DeVos and the Trump Administration have made a concerted effort since taking office to reach out to the country’s HBCU. In a February meeting with Deans and other leaders from HBCU, DeVos praised HBCU for being innovators and creating opportunities for the black community in the face of racial segregation. In holding them up as a model of school choice, Secretary DeVos said of HBCU that “They are living proof that when more options are provided to students, they are afforded greater access and great quality,” Check this article from New York Post.