HBCU Leaders Feel Slighted (Again) After Trump Budget Proposal Omits Additional Funds, Cuts Pell Grants

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President Donald Trump’s budget will maintain the $425 million already allocated for HBCUs. Photo by Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP.

Less than a month after meeting with contested President Donald Trump, leaders of the nation’s historically Black colleges and universities have been duped yet again after their requests for additional funding failed to make it into Trump’s trillion-dollar White House budget.

Between massive cuts to the Department of Education and a whopping $52.3-billion boost for national defense spending, the reality TV star-turned-politician’s first presidential budget calls to maintain the $492 million in funds for HBCUs and other nonwhite-serving institutions. Combined discretionary spending for such schools, however, is actually close to $577 million as of now, according to The Washington Post.

After being so graciously courted by Trump and his administration, HBCU leaders had cautiously hoped their requests would be met. However, that wasn’t the case.

“Less than three weeks ago, this administration claimed it is a priority to advocate for HBCUs, but, after viewing this budget proposal, those calls ring hollow,” said state Rep. Alma Adams (D-N.C.), a graduate of North Carolina A&T State University.

Louisiana state representative and Morehouse College alumnus Cedric Richmond (D-La.) echoed Adams’ harsh sentiments, denouncing Trump’s proposed cuts to grants for out-of-school-time programs, community development and initiatives that serve to help low-income Americans.

“All of this hurts the African-American community,” Richmond said. “In addition, despite his promise to support and strengthen HBCUs, President Trump proposes to give these schools the same amount of funding they received last year. This budget proposal is not a new deal for African-Americans. It’s a raw deal that robs the poor and the middle class to pay the richest of the rich.”

In his budget, Trump made no mention of leaders’ requests for a 5-to-10-percent increase in federal agency funding to HBCUs nor their plea for significant boosts in Pell Grant and Title III funding. Rather than expand Pell Grants, which help low-income students afford college, the president’s budget seeks to slash nearly $4 billion from the program’s reserves.

This is the second time Trump has misled Black university leaders since taking office, even after pledging to “do more for HBCUs than any other president has done before.” University leaders initially expressed joy at the president’s vow to show favor to HBCUs, specifically in the form of additional funding. To their disappointment, however, Trump signed an executive order that simply moved the HBCU initiative from the Education Department to the Executive Office of the President.

“It is not possible to measure the impact of this gesture anytime soon, if ever,” wrote Morehouse College President John Wilson Jr. in a statement last month.

Johnny Taylor, president of the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, seemingly shrugged off the president’s discrepancy, arguing that the proposed appropriations could’ve been a lot worse considering large cuts to the Department of Education. He pointed to HBCU advocates’ previous struggles to secure funds from the Obama administration and assured proponents that the lines of communication would remain open with Trump’s administration.

“This is a process,” Taylor said. “We’ve already had phone calls with the administration to say that as we go into the specific lines of this budget, this is where we’d like you to consider increases. This is only stage one.”

The United Negro College Fund has since penned a letter urging the president to rethink his government funding commitments. The organization also sent a letter to the Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney reiterating changes discussed during last month’s meetings.

According to HBCUDigest.com, the Congressional Black Caucus also released an alternative budget proposal calling for two years of free college at specific institutions, lowered interest rates on federal student loans and a $1,000 increase for Pell Grant awards.

“You can’t just have a photo op for HBCUs and not create more funding for them,” Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, said Thursday. “These schools have been under austerity for years and if they’re going to compete with others, they need more funding.”

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