Though the first three weeks of the Trump presidency have been filled with legal setbacks on immigration, amateurish management and political distraction, there’s one subject that looks like it could place President Trump in front of President Obama in terms of results: Policy around Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs).
Less than three weeks in office the Trump Administration is in the process of writing an executive order on HBCUs and there’s loud talk of increased funding. House Republicans are working in parallel with the White House on the issue and will host a HBCU event on February 28 in Washington, D.C.
HBCUs were given a rough ride during the eight years President Obama was in office. Often HBCU advocates were left out of the loop by the Obama White House on policies directly impacting their colleges and universities and members of Congress were often placed in the position of having to protect HBCUs from Administration policy.
In 2009, President Obama’s first budget cut $73 million in funding for HBCUs. The money was later replaced after members of Congress, led by former House Education Committee Chairman George Miller, scrambled to find a way to fill the shortfall.
In 2011, the Department of Education decided to make it harder for parents to secure Parent PLUS loans by tightening credit worthiness standards. The change hit the parents of HBCU students disproportionately and 28,000 HBCU students had their education interrupted. HCBU advocates made plans to sue the Obama Administration over the change but later decided not to. HBCUs collectively lost $300 million in tuition over the Parent PLUS loan decision.
In September 2013, President Obama’s Education Secretary Arne Duncan apologized to HBCU leaders and advocates for the Parent PLUS loan decision and the lack of communication.
“Communication internally and externally was poor,” Duncan said. “I apologize for that, and for the real impact it has had,” he added. In early 2013, a total of over 400,000 parents had been rejected for Parent PLUS loans.
In February 2015, President Obama was critical of Historically Black Colleges and Universities during a tense meeting with members of the Congressional Black Caucus. Only a few weeks before the meeting, President Obama’s own White House HBCU Advisory Board Chair, Hampton University President Dr. William Harvey, was critical of the Obama Administration.
“Pell grants to students at HBCUs are down. Direct loans to our students are down. Graduate subsidies have been eliminated. In addition to student support, overall support to Black colleges is down,” Dr. Harvey, who has been President of Hampton since 1978, said in 2015.
Lauren Victoria Burke can be contacted at LBurke007@gmail.com and on twitter at @LVBurke