Trump Backtracks After Suggesting Funding for HBCUs Might Be Unconstitutional

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Earlier this year, President Donald Trump vowed to do more for historically Black colleges than any other president. (Photo by Cheriss May/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

President Donald Trump on Sunday, May 8, maintained that his support for the nation’s historically Black colleges and universities remains “unwavering.”

Trump’s latest declaration is a complete about-face from a statement he made last week when he questioned whether a key funding source for HBCUs was constitutional. The off-putting comment left many higher-education officials concerned that the federal program created to help such institutions repair, renovate and rebuild their campuses might be cut.

On May 6, the president signed a $1.1 trillion spending bill to keep the government operating through September, after which he declared his administration would “treat provisions that allocate benefits on the basis of race, ethnicity and gender … in a manner consistent with requirement to afford equal protection of the laws” as stated under the Fifth Amendment, the Associated Press reported.

The Historically Black College and University Capital Financing Program Account was just one of the many programs listed under that section of the statement, according to the AP. The president’s remark sparked swift backlash by members of the Congressional Black Caucus.

“For a president who pledged to reach out to African-Americans and other minorities, this statement is stunningly careless and divisive,” the lawmakers said in a statement. “We urge him to reconsider immediately.”

Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) and CBC chairman Cedric Richmond (D-La.) called the president’s statement “misinformed” and not “grounded in any serious constitutional analysis.”

Trump sought to clarify his statement Sunday, saying he was simply describing “my intention to spend the funds it appropriates, including the funds for historically Black colleges and universities, consistently with my responsibilities under the Constitution.”

“It does not affect my unwavering support for HBCUs and their critical educational missions,” he added.

The president went on to mention an executive order he signed honoring HBCUs earlier this year, moving the initiative to aid the specialized institutions from the Department of Education to the Executive Office of the President. The order was a huge disappointment to Black university leaders, who were expecting additional support in the form of money.

“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.

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