Despite the Trump administration's remarks back in February about “ensuring that historically black colleges and universities get the credit and the attention they deserve,” recent actions deem this not to be true.
In a signing statement on Friday, President Donald Trump suggested that he may not implement a program that financially assists HBCUs with construction and renovation projects, suggesting the funding may be unconstitutional. The program, which was approved by Congress nearly two decades ago, provides HBCUs with access to capital financing for things like: repairs, renovations, construction of educational facilities, instructional equipment, research instrumentation, and physical infrastructure.
While signing the $1.1 trillion omnibus government-spending bill, the President questioned the constitutionality of HBCU funding, amongst others, while saying he did not want to allocate funding based on account of "provisions that allocate benefits on the basis of race, ethnicity, and gender."
As The United Negro College Fund noted in their recent statement on the issue, HBCUs that have benefited from these capital finances loans include Florida’s Bethune-Cookman University, North Carolina’s Johnson C. Smith University and several other Black colleges in Louisiana and Mississippi who were able to rebuild their campuses after damage caused by major hurricanes.
In their statement, the organization stated how these funds are extremely beneficial in “helping to ensure that HBCU students can learn in modern facilities with modern equipment and up-to-date technology that is essential in today’s economy.”
Trump, who released a second statement on Sunday in an attempt to defend his statement, claims that “it does not affect my unwavering support for HBCUs and their critical educational missions.”
Amongst those to condemn the President’s remarks is The Congressional Black Caucus. “It’s safe to say that he meant what he said on Friday and that last night’s statement, much like the HBCU executive order, meeting, and photo, are just PR," a joint statement constructed by Congressmen Cedric Richmond and John Conyers, Jr. read.
The controversy comes after the president signed an executive order in February that moves the White House Initiative on HBCUs under the Education Department. However, he has yet to choose a director for the initiative.
According to Politico, a White House spokesman said that "the president was able to secure big wins for his priorities in this spending bill, including more than $25 billion in additional funding for the military, $1.52 billion for border security, a permanent extension of health coverage for retired miners and a three-year extension of the D.C. school choice program."
Betsy DeVos – who has been selected as the commencement speaker for Bethune-Cookman University – recently expressed her delight about the President’s “reaffirmed” support for HBCUs in a statement on Sunday.
"I am a strong supporter of Historically Black Colleges and Universities and the critical role they play in communities and in our higher education system... I am happy to see the president reaffirmed this Administration’s support for HBCUs," the statement read.