President Trump signed an executive order to focus more attention on Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) on Tuesday, February 28. Although HBCUs comprise just three percent of higher education institutions in the U.S., “HBCUs contributed 19 percent of the nearly 9 percent of all bachelor’s degrees in science and engineering awarded to Blacks in 2010,” according to American Institutes for Research (AIR).
AIR also reported that “By 2010, approximately 33 percent of all Black students who earned bachelor’s degrees in mathematics and statistics attended HBCUs, and HBCUs produced nearly 37 percent of all Black undergraduates who received bachelor’s degrees in the physical sciences.” Black leaders and outside experts say that these schools help African-Americans compete on a playing field that’s still tilted against them. While Tuesday’s news is encouraging, they also see a need for improvements that go beyond a shake-up in the federal bureaucracy. After meeting with leaders from dozens of America’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), President Trump signed an executive order on Tuesday aimed at strengthening these institutions.
The order directed federal agencies that regularly work with HBCUs to create annual plans to help the schools reap more benefits from those relationships; created a President’s Board of Advisors on HBCUs; and moved the decade-old White House Initiative on HBCUs from the Department of Education to the Executive Office at the White House. Many HBCUs began as a response to segregation, opening after the Civil War to provide a college education for African-Americans who typically found themselves barred from other colleges. Today, some non-black students attend the schools, but educating African-Americans remains their primary mission.
Blacks have better rates an HBCU
While black students continue to graduate at lower rates than their white counterparts nationwide, research has found that they often fare better at HBCUs than at predominantly-white institutions. “HBCU students report more frequent and favorable relationships with their professors, earn higher college grades, report greater gains in critical and analytical thinking, and are more likely to earn a graduate or professional degree than their black peers at predominantly white institutions,” according to the New American Foundation. “Scholars cite the mission and history of HBCUs as the reason for these greater impacts on graduates.”
White House Initiative on HBCUs
Every president since Jimmy Carter has issued an Executive Order establishing a White House Initiative on HBCUs. The order Trump signed will have a key difference: Trump’s order will move the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities, previously part of the Department of Education, into the White House. The initiative on HBCUs, “lost track, because they did not have the full force of the White House behind them. This HBCU order will do that by repositioning the initiative in the White House,” the senior Trump Administration official said. The senior White House Official added that the administration wants HBCUs to serve as partners in the President’s urban agenda and that the administration also wants to increase the private sector’s role in supporting and strengthening their participation in federal programs.