In February, President Donald Trump posed for a photo in the Oval Office with a group of African-American college educators and administrators from historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and pledged to make those institutions an “absolute priority.”
Now, according to Mother Jones, those leaders are frustrated and disappointed with Trump’s lack of follow-through and feel that they were used as props in a PR stunt.
The coalition left the Oval Office buoyed up with high hopes and feeling that their struggling institutions might have caught a lucky break with this administration. Then the president unveiled his budget in May and it included none of the promised budget increases they’d been led to expect.
“Nothing,” said Rep. Alma Adams (D-NC) — a member of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) — to Mother Jones regarding what Trump has actually done for HBCUs.
At the meeting Trump promised to relocate the national HBCU office from the Department of Education to the White House. Not only has he not done that, wrote Mother Jones’ Brandon E. Patterson, he hasn’t even nominated anyone to lead the office.
The Chronicle of Higher Education said that the administration is having real difficulty convincing anyone to take the job.
A promised advisory board has not held its first meeting and United Negro College Fund President Michael Lomax told Patterson, “(W)e’ve had no real consistent communication with the White House or the Department of Education since the meeting in February.”
Frustrations came to a boil in August when the CBC called out the administration for its inaction and its gross mishandling of the violence in Charlottesville, VA that killed anti-racist protester Heather Heyer, 32.
“This country is having a crisis of leadership,” said CBC chair Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-LA). “This president has proven time and time again that he doesn’t have the maturity or the temperament to govern in a common-sense manner.”
A planned national conference of black higher education leaders and HBCU administrators has been postponed after a number of leaders expressed a lack of interest in hobnobbing with the president and Education Sec. Betsy DeVos. Instead, the White House will hold a day of “strategic meetings.”
Former “The Apprentice” contestant turned “widely despised” White House aide Omarosa Manigualt-Newman is Trump’s primary liaison to HBCUs. She told to the Associated Press that an announcement is coming soon about who will head the HBCU office.
Trump’s budget, said Mother Jones, cuts millions of dollars from degree programs specific to HBCUs, as well as billions from federal financial aid programs like the Pell Grant and work study.
“Around 70 percent of HBCU students are low-income and use Pell Grants to pay for school. Cuts to the programs would mean fewer HBCU students could finish their degrees, and that could cost some HBCUs millions of dollars in revenue,” wrote Patterson.
“It’s almost like we’ve been ignored,” said Rep. Adams. “So when you want people to come back and see you,” she said regarding the White House’s day of meetings, “I’m sure they’re wondering, ‘Well, what in the world for?’”