austin lane texas southern

Austin Lane, other HBCU Presidents to meet with Trump Administration ahead of monumental HBCU executive order.

There is an irony regarding historically black colleges & universities (HBCUs) and the politics of Washington D.C. During his Presidency, Ronald Reagan established the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities. In 1989, in the early months of his presidency, George H.W. Bush furthered the efforts by establishing an advisory board to aide the president and secretary of education on HBCU matters.

A wide majority of HBCUs reside in red states, such as Texas, South Carolina & Georgia. North Carolina, which recently ousted its Republican governor, has the highest concentration of HBCU campuses in the nation. Which begs the question, which party, if either truly cares about the students and administration at the universities that award 20 percent of degrees awarded to African-Americans and 25 percent of bachelor degrees awarded in STEM fields.

On Monday, Texas Southern University president Austin Lane is flying to Washington D.C. to meet with members of the current administration, TSU alumni and lawmakers in regards to the President’s proposed executive order to benefit HBCUs. During his campaign, the President’s pitch towards African-American voters was a simple, “what the hell do you have to lose?” while also placing his “New Deal For Black America” on websites such as MediaTakeout. He only won 8% of the African-American vote in November.

“It’s an easy way to say to black people ‘I’m not ignoring you.'” – Julianne Malveaux

According to those that have had a hand in the HBCU executive order, the same office that Reagan established in the 1980s will get a boost and will provide specific goals for HBCU funding and more. Federal agencies are already tied in with universities and colleges for billions of dollars in regards to research. Lane & others hope the EO puts some of those billions into their colleges and universities as well.

“I’m anxious to hear now, for the first time, how they are going to move the needle … for higher ed and for HBCUs,” Lane told the Houston Chronicle. Texas Southern has long been one of the country’s best universities for criminal justice and Lane hopes that the order drives even more research into criminal justice and education. One of his bigger wishes, according to the Chronicle — the extension of Pell Grants to low-income students to last throughout the summer.

The past eight years, some HBCU administrators thought a financial windfall would reach them with former President Barack Obama in office. Some HBCUs struggled with budget cuts, low endowment, aging facilities and notorious fiscal mismanagement. Hillary Clinton proposed $25 billion to be given to support low and middle income students at private HBCUs during the 2016 presidential campaign. The current President provided no such plan.

HBCUs received $4.7 billion in federal financial assistance in 2013, accounting for 2.8 percent of federal funds allocated to all institutions of higher education.

“The President is committed to announcing the HBCU plan before the end of February, which ends tomorrow.”

But an about face serves the current president some good according to Julianne Malveaux, ormer president of Bennett College, a historically black liberal arts college for women in Greensboro, N.C.

“It’s an easy way to say to black people ‘I’m not ignoring you.'” Malveaux said.

The White House declined to comment on the executive order except to say the President is committed to announcing the HBCU plan before the end of February – which ends tomorrow. So while the world is looking squarely at one female rapper’s retort to another, a large segment of HBCU students and administrators are looking at the White House, because they’re on the clock too.

Photo: Brett Coomer, Houston Chronicle