U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos visited Florida International University on Thursday, as part of a tour through educational institutions in Miami.
DeVos will be also visiting three elementary schools in Miami - the private Christian Academy for Reaching Excellence or CARE, the Sports Leadership and Management charter school or SLAM, and Royal Palm Elementary School, an “A” grade public school. She will be in the area until Friday.
This is the first time DeVos visits a four-year public university since her appointment as Secretary of Education. It is also the school where Trump’s nominee for labor secretary, Alexander Acosta, is dean of the law school.
FIU students and professors present at the meeting expressed their concerns over the future of financial aid and scholarships for low-income students.
"We're very much in the throes of the budget discussion," said DeVos. "I would just say that we are committed to investing and taking a bigger picture longer term look at how the federal government can assist and where we should stop doing things."
Prior to the roundtable, FIU President Mark Rosenberg spoke to DeVos privately to address a wide range of issues including the future of financial aid given to students from the federal government -- specifically Pell Grants.
"Pell Grants are very important for a large percentage of our student population, not just here at FIU, but in Miami-Dade County more generally," Rosenberg said. "Pell Grants are for the lowest income students and we know that there is some discussion about cutting those."
DeVos' visit to FIU, where more than 50 percent of students receive Pell Grants, stirred a small protest organized by Students For A Democratic Society, who used Facebook to promote the demonstration.
One of the posts on the group's Facebook page said: "DeVos is a well known adversary of public education; opting instead to funnel taxpayer dollars into unregulated private and charter schools. FIU is a public institution whose student population heavily relies on various financial aid such as Pell Grants -- a program the Trump administration recently proposed to defund."
Michelle Perez, a business administration student, was one of the protesters. She said she wanted Rosenberg to stand-up to DeVos, and pointed to DeVos' confusion at one of her initial confirmation hearings about a federal law involving students with disabilities called the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act or IDEA.
"He is the president of a public university. He should be on his school's side," Perez said. "He should be representing his institution and its best interests, and right now DeVos is not the best interest of this university."