Two days after a White House signing document called into question a key federal funding initiative for historically black colleges and universities, President Donald Trump and U.S Education Secretary Betsy DeVos released statements affirming support for HBCUs.
In separate releases, President Trump and Sec. DeVos expressed uniform approval for support of black colleges, 48 hours after the president’s signing document suggested that the federal HBCU Capital Financing Program have a been a violation of constitutional non-discrimination laws.
From the White House:
The statement that accompanied my signing of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2017, sets forth my intention to spend the funds it appropriates, including the funds for Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), consistently with my responsibilities under the Constitution. It does not affect my unwavering support for HBCUs and their critical educational missions.
In February of this year, I signed an Executive Order pledging to strengthen the capacity of HBCUs to provide the highest-quality education; to ensure equitable opportunities for HBCUs to participate in Federal programs; and to increase the number of college-educated Americans who feel empowered and able to advance the common good at home and abroad.
My commitment to the above-stated goals remains unchanged.
In a few days, my Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos will give the commencement address at Bethune-Cookman University, a school founded by the great Mary McCleod Bethune and committed to leadership and service. Secretary DeVos chose an HBCU as the venue for her first commencement address to demonstrate my Administration’s dedication to these great institutions of higher learning.
I look forward to selecting an Executive Director and Board for my HBCU initiative and continuing this important work with HBCUs throughout the nation.
“I am a strong supporter of Historically Black Colleges and Universities and the critical role they play in communities and in our higher education system.
And from Sec. DeVos:
“I am happy to see the president reaffirmed this Administration’s support for HCBUs. I will continue to be an advocate for them and for programs that make higher education more accessible to all students.
“I look forward to visiting with the students, faculty and administration of Bethune-Cookman University this week and delivering the 2017 commencement address, my first as Secretary.”
The signing document’s HBCU reference, first reported by POLITICO, alarmed HBCU advocates and leaders throughout the weekend. Members of the Congressional Black Caucus and United Negro College Fund called for clarity from the White House, and suggested that the document may not have been thoroughly vetted through all White House communications staff, or by the president prior to its distribution.
“We’re not overly alarmed at this point, based on informal reassurances and just our own knowledge of how these funding statement get put together,” Cheryl L. Smith, UNCF senior vice president of public policy and government affairs, told The Washington Post.