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Betsy DeVos is to deliver the commencement address at Bethune-Cookman University

We know the name. We know the face. We know the legacy. The time is now for us to protect a woman who had a dream, five little girls, and $1.50.

Through several sources, we confirmed that the United States Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, has been scheduled to be the commencement speaker at the 2017 graduation ceremony for Bethune-Cookman University (BCU) in Daytona Beach, Florida, on May 10, 2017.

Since the announcement of her nomination as the U.S. Secretary of Education, DeVos has been one of the most controversial members of President Donald Trump’s administration. In February, DeVos made an unsettling statement inferring that HBCUs are the “real pioneers when it comes to school choice.” Although she corrected herself the next day, the damage was already done. It would be enough if that was the only error DeVos has committed to insult the HBCU community.

Last month DeVos weakened consumer protection for student loan borrowers. According to U.S. News & World Report, 97 percent of full-time undergraduates who attend BCU receive some sort of need-based financial aid.

According to, the median earning of a graduate from BCU is approximate $22,000 per year for the first two years after graduating. This would make it virtually impossible to immediately begin to pay off an estimated $52,000 in student loan debt. President Barack Obama’s administration offered income-based repayment plans and student loan forgiveness programs. DeVos’ April 11th memo threatens to dismantle those very helpful programs. This means that lenders will not have any restrictions while attempting to collect the money that was borrowed by students.

With all the facts provided, why on earth would Bethune-Cookman University invite Secretary DeVos to be the commencement speaker for their spring graduation ceremony?

Betsy DeVos doesn’t understand that HBCUs were created because African Americans were excluded from mainstream institutions. Secretary DeVos has no understanding of the importance, contributions, and significance of HBCUs. 

Having DeVos speak at the commencement ceremony is an insult to the BCU graduating class, students, alumni, family, friends, and Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune’s legacy.We, the proud alumni of Bethune-Cookman University, do not want Betsy DeVos to have a seat at our table. Please rescind her invitation to speak at the graduation ceremony. 

We, the proud alumni of Bethune-Cookman University, understand the importance of engagement and open communication HBCUs must have with all levels of government; therefore instead of inviting Secretary DeVos to graduation, let's welcome her to the table and have meaningful dialogue about stronger policies, the White House HBCU Initiative, and the importance and contributions of HBCUs.

Bethune-Cookman University doesn't need a photo op from the Trump Administration, we need action done by this administration for all HBCUs.

Please rescind her invitation to speak at the graduation ceremony. 

Sign the petition to stop this from happening. The Bethune-Cookman University community deserves better and demands it.


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