(Photo courtesy of Wilmington University)
Dr. LaVerne T. Harmon became the fourth president of Wilmington University after a unanimous vote last July, becoming the first African-American woman university president in Delaware history.
On March 8 — International Women’s Day, no less — she was celebrated with the school’s first inauguration, held at the Chase Center on the Riverfront.
Harmon has a long history with WilmU that goes back to 1989, but, let’s be real, it’s the future that really matters. Under Harmon, there are plans for continued growth of the Brandywine Campus (we’re still rooting for a campus in Wilmington proper), more online opportunities promised, and more international opportunities.
The biggest, and arguably most important of Harmon’s visions is to create more scholarship opportunities. WilmU is an affordable university that boasts some of the lowest student debt in the state, with more than half of its students graduating debt-free. Harmon wants that figure to be even lower, and more accessible to people at any income level.
With the student-debt crisis showing no signs of slowing down nationally, WilmU’s stance on minimizing student debt is a good thing, as difficult as it is to convince some that affordability and less student debt doesn’t mean something is wrong with the school (lots of people still think WilmU is a for-profit college because of its open admission policy — it’s not), especially when the school’s previous president, Jack Varsalona, had the highest salary for a college president in 2015, when a one-time retirement plan payment put him over the top (Varsalona was not even in the top 10 the following year).
WilmU benefits from the fact that the old “borrow now, worry later” approach to education has bottomed out. In the era of SEED, open access and alternative education routes, Harmon’s vision seems in line with the times.
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