The Trump administration now appears to have changed its stance from last Friday when Trump suggested he would not support setting aside funds for Historically Black Colleges and Universities.
The suggestion that HBCUs should be defunded came after Trump signed a $1.1 trillion spending bill. Trump insinuated strongly it was unconstitutional to set aside money for higher institutions of learning that focus on one race because of a violation of due process laws.
HBCUs, already strapped financially due to lower enrollments and reduced state funding, felt threatened by Trump’s ominous words. Moreover, Trump seemed to imply that affirmative action and similar programs are actually discriminatory against whites. It was not clear, however, whether Trump was simply agreeing with the right-wing view or if the White House would refuse to allocate the funds that Congress had already set aside for the HBCUs.
White House aide Omarosa Manigault, who attained national fame on Trump’s “The Apprentice” and “Celebrity Apprentice” before joining his successful presidential campaign, denied that the signing statement signaled a shift away from HBCU support, according to the New York Times, saying, “I worked to make sure there was clarity because I observed that there was feedback and some were misconstruing the signing statement.”
The statement was disconcerting and disquieting to many in the African-American higher educational community. Some felt like they had been deceived and used for political expediency, especially since Trump had met with HBCU presidents in the White House for a highly-publicized photo opportunity back in February.
The White House later issued a statement saying that Trump’s signing statement “does not affect my unwavering support” for HBCUs and that his commitment “remains unchanged.”
However, Michael L. Lomax, the president and chief executive of the College Fund, said that the statement was a step in the right direction but he will remain vigilant to see what the Trump administration will do — more than what they say”: “The clearest indication that they accept what has been the policy and the practice since 1965 would be the immediate release of the funds and the implementation of the program.”