Trump and HBCUs Are Strange Bedfellows

Recently, Education Secretary Betsy Devos grabbed the microphone and promptly put her foot in her mouth. The head of the United States Department of Education has revealed herself to be an absolute ignoramus when it comes to Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

DeVos, who was a staunch supporter of school vouchers and an opponent of the Department of Education, is symptomatic of a general ignorance among the mainstream mindset. Black schools are historically and tragically underfunded on all fronts.

From the most adorable little kindergarten classes to the halls of some of our most hallowed institutions, the unique needs of black students are seldom taken into consideration. And, even in the remote instance that they are addressed, these concerns are dismissed. Either through apathy, racism, ignorance, or some combination of the three, Black education has historically gone under-addressed, if ever addressed at all. Well, DeVos has proven that the ignorance part of this theorem holds plenty of water.

Misspelling the name of black educator, thinker and orator W.E.B. Du Bois’ name is pathetic, but completely leaving out segregation and Jim Crow as the reason black colleges exist is typical of the mainstream in general, the right in particular.

Indicative of what seems to be all out blitz of Black outreach as of late, President Trump welcomed dozens of Black college leaders to the Oval Office, and Vice President Mike Pence, fresh off denouncing the vandalizing of Jewish cemetery near St. Louis and participating in its clean up, met with other Black college leaders elsewhere in the White House.

Youve transformed lives through education and helped to lead our country to a more perfect union, Pence told them. The president and I admire the contributions of historically black colleges and universities.

He also stated the administration will make sure HBCU’s get the credit and attention they deserve.

Indeed, credit for HBCU’s is warranted. It also must be noted that black colleges have gotten bipartisan support over the years, according to the Penn Center for Minority Serving Institutions. Every president since Jimmy Carter has issued an executive order in support of HBCU’s.

Three quarters of all doctorates, three quarters of all U.S. military officers and 80 percent of black federal judges got their undergraduate degree from a Black college. HBCU’s have been historically underfunded over the years and now student and parent debt are contributing to low graduation rates.

Considering that, according to the Pew Research Center, a two-parent black household makes less on average than a single white person, the low graduation rates are definitely tied into household income. For many, it’s not a matter of ability but finances as far as graduating is concerned.

Yes, this is an outreach to garner some Black support by the Trump administration, which did very poorly among African-Americans during the election.   Black college leaders meet with Congress all the time, but to have such a dramatic photo op in the Oval Office is a bit over the top. But that’s the Trump way. To get out of their financial doldrums and close to some parity with white institutions, HBCUs will need tens of billions.

Everybody loves talking about equality, these schools need and deserve equity with their white peers, and the students need targeted resources designed to help them finish via additional federal funding.  Early this morning President Donald J. Trump signed an executive order that he says signals his administration’s support for HBCUs.  

The Black college brain trust is calling for $25 million dollars to make up for years of underfunding and historic neglect. Black colleges received $4 billion total under President Barack Obama. The GOP lawmakers have said there are currently no solid plans to increase funding.  House Democrat Leader Nancy Pelosi called the executive order “more empty symbolism”.

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