The U.S. Department of Education is setting aside $17.7 million in coronavirus relief funds for a new small business incubator at Hampton University.
Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos announced the grant in a visit to campus Friday morning. Virginia is one of eight states that won part of over $126 million set aside for workforce programs as part of the federal government’s COVID-19 response.
The Virginia Workforce Innovation and Entrepreneurship Center will be a partnership between the university, the Virginia Board of Workforce Development and Old Dominion University.
“This program is for all kinds of students, of all ages, including and especially adult learners seeking new knowledge and skills to grow and evolve their own businesses,” DeVos said. “I’m excited to see how this center will expand Hampton’s influential role in this community and throughout Virginia.”
The announcement is the latest announcement connected to the relationship between Hampton President William R. Harvey and President Donald Trump’s administration. Harvey, one of the longest-serving college presidents, has met with every president since he took office in 1978. He met with Trump about a month after his inauguration along with other historically Black college and university leaders. DeVos and Vice President Mike Pence visited the Hampton University Proton Therapy Institute in February.
Harvey called back to that visit during the announcement at the university’s student center Friday morning.
“It is a distinct pleasure for me to be able to welcome Secretary DeVos to this historic campus,” Harvey said. “She has always been very accessible and friendly to me.”
The funding announced Friday comes from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, which Trump signed into law in March.
The Department of Education opened applications for the Reimagine Workforce Preparation grants in late spring. It asked states to submit applications that focused on expanding career training opportunities or small business incubators that supported colleges and local entrepreneurs.
States with larger COVID-19 case numbers were prioritized during the decision process. Other state programs receiving funding include the creation of new short-term and career pathway programs by the New York State Department of Labor and modernizing Nevada’s workforce system with an emphasis on remote access.
“Students and their schools, entrepreneurs and their small businesses, families and communities have been hit hard,” DeVos said. “But out of this crisis we can seize new opportunity, and that’s exactly what folks here at Hampton are doing right now.”
The $17.7 million comes on top of $14.1 million in other funds the university has received from the CARES Act, according to an analysis from the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia. It received the second most of any private school in the state, including $4.3 million in institutional aid and another $9.8 million for minority-serving institutions.
DeVos cited Hampton’s position as one of the nation’s most prominent HBCUs as part of the reason for making the announcement at the school. The announcement came at the end of National HBCU Week, an annual program at the Department of Education.
In advance of DeVos’s visit, the Democratic Party of Virginia released a statement criticizing DeVos and Trump’s record on HBCUs, saying that DeVos has diverted coronavirus relief funds from public schools to private and religious schools.
“Hampton University has such a rich history of supporting entrepreneurship and new ideas to problems, solutions to problems,” DeVos said, “and so we’re very excited about being able to announce this grant competitions award and looking forward to the outcomes and results.”
Friday’s event, held after DeVos took a car tour of campus with Harvey, included Hampton Mayor Donnie Tuck; George Taratsas, federal workforce development programs administrator for the Virginia Community College System; John Nunnery, associate vice president for research at ODU; and Scott Stump, assistant secretary of career, technical and adult education.
Kermit Crawford, associate professor and chair of the psychology department, led the brief roundtable conversation. He co-led the grant application along with Glenda Evans, assistant professor and senior advisor in the university’s school of business.
“We are more than ready to do this,” Crawford said.
Matt Jones, 757-247-4729, [email protected]
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