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'A real pipeline for students of color': Delaware's HBCU returns to Wilmington

Courtesy of Capital One

Delaware State University announced a return to the City of Wilmington and a major donation Thursday. 


The Dover-based HBCU is growing—with its recent acquisition of Wesley College and several high-profile donations and partnerships.   

DSU accepted a donation of the $4.7 million Capital One building on the Wilmington Riverfront from the bank this week. 

The school plans to use the building to house its School for Graduate, Adult, and Extended Studies and a small business incubation hub, as well as a new partnership with the Teen Warehouse and its workforce development center. 

“What excites me most about it is we’ve had a ten year hiatus out of the City of Wilmington, which ... is the largest metropolitan city in Delaware,”  DSU President Tony Allen said in an interview. “We have a lot of alums and prospective students there, so to be able to return to the city is a big deal for us.”

The six-floor, 35,000-square-foot building on S. Orange Street was occupied by Capital One until 2018, when the company consolidated its office space into downtown Wilmington.  

Allen says the school hopes to use the building to reach new people.  

“There’s lots of opportunity for us to just reach more folks who are retooling, don’t necessarily want to go get a four-year degree, but want to get some mastery in some key fields,” he said, “[and] bringing younger people into the Delaware State family earlier.”

Capital One has also committed to adding a dedicated recruiter to hire DSU grads. The company plans to extend access to its “up-skill” programs—like theFirst Gen Focus and HBCU Tech Mini-Mester, a two-week coding skills program—for Freshman and Sophomores. 

“We’re really thinking through how we together develop a real pipeline for students of color as they come into Delaware State and matriculate through, that includes Cap One every step of the way—whether that includes networking, internships and we hope an ongoing hiring commitment,” Allen said. 

Delaware’s Congressional delegation is praising the deal as they push for the IGNITE HBCU Excellence Act to repair and modernize HBCU campuses. 

“As we work to deliver this transformational support for campus infrastructure, I’m thrilled to see Capital One and Delaware State partnering together to pave the way for future generations of Hornets to learn and grow along the Wilmington Riverfront,” said U. S. Senator Chris Coons (D-Del.), who’s a cosponsor of the legislation, in a statement. 

“The return of DSU to the City of Wilmington will be a massive boost for economic development, help Delaware State with alumni relations within the city, and allow DSU to engage with students earlier, giving them access to an incredible talent pipeline from which to recruit,” said Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester in a statement. “This donation will also allow Delaware State’s adult education efforts to reach the City of Wilmington, an issue I’m passionate about as the founder and co-chair of the Congressional Future of Work Caucus.”

Capital One said in a press release Thursday that the donation and partnership is part of the company’s $200 million initiative launched last year to “support growth in underserved communities” and “advance socioeconomic mobility” by closing gaps in opportunity.

"At Capital One, we know that HBCUs are engines of economic mobility," said Joe Westcott, the bank's Delaware Market President, in a statement. "We’re proud to be investing in Delaware State University's proven ability to champion educational equity, academic excellence, and the creation of innovative career pathways for its students.”


Sophia Schmidt is a Delaware native. She comes to Delaware Public Media from NPR’s Weekend Edition in Washington, DC, where she produced arts, politics, science and culture interviews. She previously wrote about education and environment for The Berkshire Eagle in Pittsfield, MA. She graduated from Williams College, where she studied environmental policy and biology, and covered environmental events and local renewable energy for the college paper.
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