Advocates for historically black colleges and universities say a White House statement questioning the constitutionality of construction funding for those schools shows a fundamental misunderstanding of their missions and history.
President Donald Trump on Friday called an HBCU construction funding program one "that allocate benefits on the basis of race, ethnicity, and gender," and threatened to challenge its constitutionality.
HBCU say they do not discriminate. Rather, they were set up in direct response to predominantly white institutions refusing to admit blacks.
Lezli Baskerville is president of the National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education. She says the Trump statement implies that HBCUs "are for blacks and not others, or that blacks are provided preferences at these institutions. Neither is the case."
Trump on Sunday reaffirmed his support for HBCUs.
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos says she is a "strong supporter" of historically black colleges and universities.
In a statement released late Sunday, DeVos said she would "continue to be an advocate for them and for programs that make higher education more accessible to all students."
Some higher education officials questioned the Trump administration's support of historically black schools after the White House appeared to put a caveat on federal funds used by the colleges to obtain low-cost construction loans. President Donald Trump said his pledge to distribute money consistent with the Constitution doesn't affect his "unwavering support."
DeVos was criticized earlier this year for calling historically black colleges "pioneers" of school choice. She later acknowledged that the schools were created because African-Americans had been excluded from predominantly white schools.
President Donald Trump has declared that his support for historically black colleges and universities remains "unwavering."
Trump sought to clarify an earlier statement that some higher education officials interpreted as meaning he planned to end a capital financing program. The operation in question is a program that helps these institutions repair, renovate and build new facilities. Congressional Black Caucus members criticized the move.
The earlier Trump statement was attached to a spending bill he signed Friday to keep the government operating through September.
Trump said in the signing statement that the administration "shall treat provisions that allocate benefits on the basis of race, ethnicity and gender ... in a manner consistent with the requirement to afford equal protection of the laws" under the due process clause of the Fifth Amendment.
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