Despite the high-profile meeting with Trump at the White House last month, HBCU leaders are not feeling the love now that #45’s proposed budget has been released. The promised extra money and investment for their schools were glaringly, but not surprisingly, missing.
According to The Washington Post, Trump’s first presidential budget calls for “maintaining” $492 million for HBCUs, which raised eyebrows given that the combined discretionary spending for these schools is actually $577 million right now. When asked about this fiscal discrepancy, the Education Department didn’t respond to the newspaper requests.
In addition, the WaPo also pointed out that there is no mention of any federal investment in scholarships, technology or campus infrastructure for historically black colleges that the leaders requested. And instead of expanding Pell grants for low-income students, the budget actually slashes $4 billion from that vital educational program.
Rep. Alma Adams (D-N.C.), a graduate from North Carolina A&T State University, believes that Trump’s promises don’t hold any water.
“Less than three weeks ago, this administration claimed it is a priority to advocate for HBCUs but, after viewing this budget proposal, those calls ring hollow,” she wrote in a statement.
United Negro College Fund President Michael L. Lomax echoes her sentiments.
“President Trump pledged to do more for HBCUs than any other president has done before. However, this budget is not reflective of that sentiment. Without strong federal investments, President Trump’s commitment to HBCUs and the rebuilding of African-American communities will be promises unfulfilled.”
But not everyone feels dismayed by the proposed budget.
Johnny Taylor, president of the Thurgood Marshall College Fund told The WaPo that given how drastic the cuts were to the Education Department, the cuts to HBCUs could have been worse. He said also pointed that like they did with the Obama administration, HBCU advocates will continue to push back and fight for funding.
“This is a process,” Taylor explains. “We’re already had phone calls with the administration to say that as we go into the specific lines of this budget, this is where we’d like you to consider increases. This is only stage one.”
For many, the news that Trump broke his promise to fund these schools better than any president before him, doesn’t come as a huge shock. There has been much skepticism around the meeting, including from those who were actually there. We previously reported that Morehouse College President John Wilson Jr. said that he was “disappointing” despite having “high hopes.”
“There was much advance chatter about [the executive order] being ‘historic,’and there were many signals from key Trump administration officials that they would surprise HBCUs with favorable treatment,” wrote Wilson.
“But, instead of the long-awaited executive order containing or signaling any of those outcomes, the key change is a symbolic shift of the White House HBCU Initiative from the Department of Education to the White House.”
Trust in Trump’s administration was also shaken when Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said that HBCUs were “pioneers” of school choice.
“They are living proof that when more options are provided to students, they are afforded greater access and great quality. Their success has shown that more options help students flourish,” she said.
Obviously, we all know that HBCUs were created because white universities would not admit African-American students.
Either way, there is time for Trump to redeem himself with HBCU leaders, but that’s going to take a lot including acknowledging how crucial these schools are to the community and that they deserve more money.
“You can’t just have a photo op for HBCUs and not create more funding for them,” Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers told the WaPo on Thursday.
“These schools have been under austerity for years, and if they’re going to compete with others, they need more funding.”