Trump names new advisory chairman, vows to make HBCUs 'a major priority'

HBCUs are "a major priority of our administration,” Trump said on Tuesday.

ByABC News
February 27, 2018, 8:11 PM

— -- A year after vowing to make historically black colleges and universities "a major priority", President Donald Trump named John C. Taylor Jr. — who is familiar with the challenges these schools face — the new chairman of a White House board of advisers aimed at working with those institutions.

Taylor is the former president and CEO of the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, a non-profit organization that supports thousands of students attending public historically black colleges and universities, more commonly known as HBCUs. He is now the president and CEO of the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM).

“I know he will advance the cause of HBCU’s - a major priority of our administration,” Trump said of Taylor.

Last March, Trump signed an executive order as a gesture to do just that.

During that time, former director of communications for the Office of Public Liaison Omarosa Newman, worked as a liaison to help in the administration's outreach to leaders from HBCUs. A number of those leaders were present during the signing of an executive order that pledged support for the institutions last year.

After the meeting, some of those leaders, including former Morehouse College president John Wilson, expressed disappointment.

"Many had high hopes about this meeting. There was much advance chatter about it being “historic,” and there were many signals from key Trump administration officials that they would surprise HBCUs with favorable treatment," he wrote the school's community in March after last year's White House meeting.

"In general, the meetings were a troubling beginning to what must be a productive relationship," he added. "Trust that the HBCU community will continue to press for the kind of funding that educational excellence and national competitiveness require!"

During Tuesday's announcement, Trump touted the "great strides" he said his administration had undertaken to benefit HBCUs and cited a half-billion dollars in his budget proposal for HBCU-focused programs.

The deal "allows for the forgiveness of any outstanding loans owed under the HBCU Hurricane Supplement Loan Program, which was a very difficult task and it worked out," the president said. He also highlighted what he said are increased opportunities in the Pell Grant program.

But, reports by ABC News also show that the 2018 fiscal budget, which the president signed and approved, results in a reduction of funding for federal work-study, Pell Grant reserves and student loan subsidies, according to the United Negro College Fund (UNCF).

Some estimates put the number of HBCU students relying on Pell Grants to help cover tuition costs at about 90 percent, roughly 39 of the general college student population relies on such aid.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, as of 2015, there were 102 historically black colleges and universities in 19 states, Washington D.C., and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Enrollment at these schools rose by 32 percent between 1976 and 2015, going from 223,000 to 293,000.

Taylor said HBCUs are looking to capitalize on the economic growth under the Trump administration, according to a White House press pool report.

"Every year, over 300,000 students turn to these institutions for their education and to prepare them for their careers," Taylor said. "This president's advisory board can be a nexus between higher educational institutions and employers."

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