By now everyone knows that President Trump and ED Secretary DeVos staged a grossly insincere photo-op with the leaders of the nation’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU). That’s where DeVos displayed her unforgivable ignorance to the suffering of African Americans at the bigoted hands of the Jim Crow South by making a glib self-serving comparison of HBCUs as “pioneers” of school “choice.”
HBCU leaders attended the meeting with the reasonable expectation that President Trump planned to budget some much needed Federal dollars for these chronically underfunded institutions. Instead, DeVos proceeded to speak these unsettling obtuse words, “rather than focus solely on funding, we must be willing to make the tangible, structural reforms that will allow students to reach their full potential.”
It didn’t take long to find out what that meant.
President Trump’s budget slashes $85 million dollars from Historically Black Colleges and Universities and cuts $4 billion dollars from Pell Grants, which serve financially-needy students. Seventy percent of students attending HBCUs receive Pell Grants.
The Washington Post reports:
“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,” Rep. Alma Adams (D-N.C.), a graduate of the largest HBCU, North Carolina A&T State University, said in a statement.
At the time, United Negro College Fund President Michael L. Lomax, who attended the ceremonial signing, lamented the lack of financial support in the order, noting that none of the funding recommendations were included… “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,” Lomax said.
Historically black schools educated nearly 300,000 students in 2014, the latest figure available from the National Center for Education Statistics. Education Department data shows that three-quarters of all doctorates awarded to African Americans and 80 percent of black federal judges earned an undergraduate degree at historically black schools.
Though the federal government sets aside money in the budget for historically black colleges, those schools have not benefited from the same level of public funding as other institutions of higher education. The disparity in funding public HBCUs, in particular, has resulted in a series of lawsuits, including a decade-old case in Maryland that is still being fought in the courts.
Considering Trump’s intended $85 million HBCU budget cut, could it be that DeVos’s shameful “choice” comment was deliberate instead of ignorant?
Inside Higher ED reports, DeVos said, “black colleges were created when “there were too many students in America who did not have equal access to education. HBCUs are real pioneers when it comes to school choice.” The institutions were founded because black students had, in many respects, no choice. They could not enroll at predominantly white institutions in the South, even public institutions in their own states.
Further, as states created public historically black colleges, they did so to meet “separate but equal” requirements, and never took the equal part of that statement seriously. Public black colleges were created with a fraction of the budgets, programs and facilities of their predominantly white counterparts. While many students did thrive at these institutions, educators there constantly decried the lack of resources (and many maintain that continues to this day).