Morehouse President on White House Meeting, HBCU Executive Order: 'A Troubling Beginning'

In a portion sharply critical of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos' statement calling HBCUs "real pioneers when it comes to school choice", a statement she has since walked back, Wilson said that the schools "were not created because the 4 million newly freed blacks were unhappy with the choices they had". No doubt you've seen video showing everyone in the room seemingly excited that their president is about taking HBCUs to the next step, but the hype died after folks learned what was actually in the executive order.

Executive orders pledging support to the schools have been signed by presidents since the 1970s.

However, Wilson did write of DeVos, "From listening to her carefully for the last two days, I get the strong sense that she wants to get this job right".

Trump's order moves the Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities from the Department of Education into the executive office of the White House.

It does not specify how much federal money the colleges should receive.

No! HBCUs were not a choice; there was no "alternative option" to attending schools that refused to allow them to enter. Some of them chose to come to Washington over the objections of students and alumni, saying they can ill afford to play politics while Trump moves quickly to set priorities.

"We're appealing to his good business sense and hoping he finds an investment worth paying for", said Roslyn Artis, president of Florida Memorial University in Miami.

DeVos said Title IX and school desegregation remain important issues, but when asked if there are "remaining issues like that" where the federal government should intervene, she responded, "I can't think of any now".

More worrisome than the school-choice comment, for Mr. Kimbrough, was Ms. DeVos's assertion that a key priority for the Trump administration would be not to focus exclusively on funding, but on some form of "tangible, structural reforms".

Still, Gallot and other black college presidents said it helped to have met with Trump and lawmakers.

The order would effectively reestablish a White House Initiative on HBCUs and identify ways to promote the institutions - something Trump called "an absolute priority".

Trump signed the order surrounded by dozens of presidents from the country's 104 HBCUs. And there was a good bit of uproar after Talladega College's marching band performed in Trump's inauguration - something viewed by some alumni as an endorsement when many performers were declining to attend. Even Obama's rhetorical support for black colleges served to complicate his relationship with them, as in the commencement speech he gave at Morehouse College, in 2013.

The Washington trip was led by the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, the nonprofit umbrella organization of public HBCUs. "This persistent inequality has led some states, including Maryland and MS, to be sued for failing to fund Black and White public colleges at equal levels".

President Trump is trying, perhaps more than any other Republican president in history, to reach out to the African-American community.

"They went with the belief that there was going to be an opportunity for something substantive to occur and that didn't", Sorrell said. In fact, numerous students who attend HBCUs-over 70% of HBCU students are Pell Grant eligible-are hurt by DeVos's school choice obsession, as such efforts are often aimed at killing public schools rather than investing in them and the communities that surround them. Yes the history of most HBCUs is interesting because the majority of HBCUs were founded by white missionaries (not all, but a lot), and funded by white donors (Spelman is Rockefeller's wife's maiden name). They serve students who may not otherwise get education, and nearly 90 percent of the students depend on federal financial aid. "Think of the opportunities that would be there to do more with more".

  • Joanne Flowers