WASHINGTON – President Obama’s senior White House officials are meeting with the presidents of Historically Black Colleges and Universities to discuss ways to create the most educated, competitive and diverse workforce in the world by 2020, one of the goals that Obama articulated during his historic 2008 presidential campaign.
In order to accomplish this objective, HBCUs need to be fortified and assured of sustainability long into the future. Obama’s senior adviser, Valerie Jarrett; White House HBCU Initiative director John Silvanus Wilson Jr.; U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan; and Congressman James Clyburn, D-S.C., are going to deliver impassioned remarks to the assemblage of college presidents and deans of HBCUs.
Called the “HBCUs Engaging the World Anew,” the initiative will cover several important subjects: increasing government support of HBCUs, as measured by Title III and other institutional support, Pell Grants, and direct funding from various federal agencies; better internal government relations; engagement of the private sector; and altering the national discussion on HBCUs.
“The Initiative was marginalized within the federal government for years; it wasn’t integrated in a way that took advantage of all the resources available to HBCUs,” said John Wilson, HBCU Initiative director, a Morehouse College graduate and impassioned advocate of black colleges and universities. “We have been working hard to connect the Initiative to the resources inside the federal government to maximize the benefits to HBCUs. We now have better staff relations, better federal agency relationships, and we are taking full advantage of the White House’s support.”
Wilson added that, because of this administration’s attentiveness to HBCU Initiative, they are now at the table when major decisions are being made. That has directly resulted in the billion-dollar investment that the federal government has committed to over the next decade. Moreover, now that Obama is in the White House, the question has changed from “are HBCUs are needed” to “how can HBCUs contribute to Obama’s 2020 goal of being the best educated workforce in the world?”
“We are positioning the narrative to be more data-driven. President Obama has a 2020 goal, and it requires the nation to have 8 million more graduates between now and 2020 — 2 million of these graduates need to be African Americans, and of that 2 million, an extra 167,000 students must graduate from HBCUs,” Wilson explains. “Under the Obama administration, the question of whether HBCUs should exist is completely off the table. Not only do they need to exist, but they need to thrive in order to meet the 2020 goal.”