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Presidents of historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and leaders of affiliated associations and organizations met with President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, and Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos at the White House on February 27.

The following day, Trump signed an executive order re-establishing the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities. The order moves multiple federal initiatives aimed at bolstering HBCUs from the Department of Education to the White House, something HBCU presidents have been urging presidents to do for years.

The order also establishes a “President’s Board of Advisors on HBCUs” within ED, to be comprised of HBCU presidents and others from the education, business, and philanthropy sectors.

The meeting was overshadowed, however, when DeVos released a statement praising HBCUs for being “real pioneers when it comes to school choice.” Journalists, members of Congress, and others roundly criticized her choice of words as insensitive to the racial inequalities and Jim Crow-era segregation that significantly limited higher education opportunities for black students.

DeVos later acknowledged that HBCUs were “born, not out of mere choice, but out of necessity, in the face of racism, and in the aftermath of the Civil War” at an event co-hosted by Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) and Rep. Mark Walker (R-NC) that included House Speaker Paul Ryan and other Republican members of Congress.

While many HBCU presidents were pleased with the executive order and expressed hope that it is a sign of strong ongoing connections with the Trump White House, others were less pleased that the order lacked any additional monetary funding commitments for HBCUs.

Any new funding initiatives will likely be unveiled when Trump presents his federal budget request, which is expected on March 16.


Liz Clark

Vice President, Policy and Research


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