From the start of his administration, President Trump has taken a number of steps aimed at bolstering Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) around the country. Last week, while attending the annual HBCU Week National Conference, President Trump highlighted a range of actions he has taken to protect and grow what he calls the “pillars of excellence in higher education and the engines of advancement in the African American community.” Given the prevalence of HBCUs in Mississippi, the president’s commitment is especially beneficial to our state economy and local communities.
If you missed the memo that the Trump Administration has taken significant steps to bolster HBCUs – more so than the last administration by many accounts – you are not alone. The mainstream media (and particularly outlets in Mississippi) has largely ignored these actions and the little coverage from some organizations ends up buried among strained parallels to oft-repeated misrepresentations about the president and race.
The President’s work with HBCU leadership reveals a commitment to build an education system and economy that is beneficial for all Americans. This is not something to ignore, but rather celebrate.
Today there are 101 accredited HBCUs in the United States. While they only represent about 3 percent of higher education offerings, they have a significant impact on the success of African American students and their role in today’s workforce. HBCUs account for 17 percent of the bachelor’s degrees earned by African Americans and 24 percent of the degrees earned in science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, fields. As a result, HBCUs have served as the educational pathway for 80 percent of African American judges, 40 percent African American engineers, and more than 50 percent of African American doctors.
In early 2017 while attending a White House listening session on Black History Month, African American leaders raised concerns that the Obama Administration years had negatively impacted HBCUs. President Trump responded by setting in motion a range of important actions to institute a more positive trajectory.
As a first step, President Trump officially moved the Federal HBCU Initiative from the Department of Education to the White House and placed the Executive Director on the Domestic Policy Council where he has a direct advisory role to the president. President Trump fought for and procured a 13 percent increase in federal funding for HBCUs, lifted restrictions to allow for year-round Pell Grants so they could be used for summer classes and forgave years-long debt built-up after Hurricane Katrina of which Tougaloo College was a recipient.
President Trump also provided $100 million in scholarship funding at land-grant HBCUs and pared back unnecessary regulations that were limiting program options for students. Most recently, President Trump directed the Department of Justice to lift a long-standing ban on federal money to HBCUs that are affiliated with religious organizations. In the president’s own words, “[f]aith-based HBCUs will [now] enjoy equal access to federal support.”
Mississippi is home to six HBCUs, including: Alcorn State, Coahoma Community College, Jackson State University, Mississippi Valley State University, Rust College, and Tougaloo College. Collectively, these institutions have a $774 million economic impact in Mississippi and account for 7,775 jobs.
An in-depth analysis found that the direct employment provides residual benefits in the surrounding communities. For each job created on an HBCU campus in Mississippi, another 1.2 jobs are created off campus. Additionally, these universities and colleges have proved to be a vital part of improving opportunities and outcomes for their students.