President Donald Trump, right, meets with leaders of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, Monday, Feb. 27, 2017. Also at the meeting are White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, left, and Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway, on the couch.

Credit: AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais

Will Historically Black Schools Lose Important Funding?

May 8, 2017

President Donald Trump is facing criticism for suggesting Friday that funding for historically black colleges and universities (HBCU’s) was unconstitutional.

In his signing statement to the $1.1 trillion spending bill signed into law Friday, Trump wrote that federal funding for minority-focused education programs was not constitutional because the funding was given “on the basis of race, ethnicity, or gender.”

On Sunday, Trump pledged his “unwavering support” to HBCU’s, after facing criticism from some university leaders.

The concern from advocates now is that President Trump will throw out a 1992 capital financing program that helps HBCUs rebuild and repair old buildings. Reverends Irene Monroe and Emmett G. Price III joined Jim Braude and Margery Eagan on Boston Public Radio to chat about what’s to come for HBCUs in the future.

This excerpt has been edited for clarity.  

MARGERY: What’s going on here?

EMMETT: I think a few things are going on here. Let’s remember, too, that the last reflection we have on President Trump and the presidents of HBCUs was that photo in February of Kellyanne Conway straddling the sofa there … a number of HBCU presidents said the only thing that came out of that meeting was that photo. We know the Civil Rights Act that came out of ‘65, but there was also the Higher Education Act as well, that provided resources for these schools that, in essence, were set up by churches and other institutions to provide equality and access for people of color.

IRENE: And it wasn’t “school choice” either.

EMMETT: There is an issue here because what the president is suggesting he’s going to do — he hasn’t done anything, but he’s suggesting that he’s going to retain the right to look at some of the funding things for capital needs, for building, for infrastructure for these schools that are old and dilapidated and they need help.

IRENE: Those buildings really need to be rebuilt. The other issue here is that he’s very subjective in how he will use this. He will pander to his base to say that — of course we will not fund these schools based on race. As if that has always been the only criteria in which funding has happened to the HBCUs. Basically who I am disappointed with — not so much with Trump, because really he doesn’t know — but Omarosa. She was supposed to be the bridge to the African-American community, particularly that every degree that she has, she got it from an HBCU, so she’s an insider understanding the particularity of what is needed for these schools here.

Rev. Irene Monroe is a syndicated religion columnist. Rev. Emmett G. Price III is a Professor of Worship, Church & Culture and Founding Executive Director of the Institute for the Study of the Black Christian Experience at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. To hear their full conversation with Boston Public Radio, click on the audio player above.


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