Trump-O-Meter

Ensure funding for historic black colleges

“My plan will also ensure funding for historic black colleges and universities, more affordable two- and four-year college and support for trade and vocational education.”


PolitiFact is tracking the promises of President Donald Trump. See them all at PolitiFact.com.

Updates

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos takes a photograph with students from historically black colleges and universities during a White House summit on Sept. 18, 2017. (AP/Andrew Harnik)
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos takes a photograph with students from historically black colleges and universities during a White House summit on Sept. 18, 2017. (AP/Andrew Harnik)

In Trump budget, black colleges would escape hits that other education programs would take

As a presidential candidate, Donald Trump promised to ensure funding for historic black colleges and universities, or HBCUs.

In his fiscal year 2019 budget proposal, Trump preserved level funding for HBCUs, which was better than other higher education recipients of federal funding. Overall, the Education Department would see a 10.5 percent cut.

The Thurgood Marshall College Fund, an advocate for HBCUs, said told us the group is "appreciative" of the level funding request, but it also said it was "concerned" about other cuts that "could have a detrimental impact on our students' ability to persist and graduate from HBCUs."

The group cited risks to funding for the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant program and the Federal Work-Study program.

Separately, the spending agreement passed by Congress and signed by the president included debt forgiveness for four HBCU campuses that experienced significant damage from Hurricane Katrina. "The decision to relieve these institutions of this significant debt obligation will allow them to focus their efforts exclusively on their missions of educating students and serving their respective communities," said Paris Dennard, the senior director of strategic communications for the Marshall fund.

As for the part of the promise about vocational education, the budget maintains $1.1 billion in funding for career and technical education.

Trump's budget proposal sticks to his promise to ensure funding for HBCUs and trade and vocational education, but it is only a non-binding wish list.

For now, we rate the promise In the Works.

Sources:

President Donald Trump's 2019 budget proposal

Associated Press, "Agency-by-agency highlights of Trump's 2019 budget," Feb. 12, 2018

Email interview with Paris Dennard, the senior director of strategic communications for the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, Feb. 14, 2018

President Donald Trump meets with leaders of historically black colleges and universities in the Oval Office on Feb. 28, 2017.
President Donald Trump meets with leaders of historically black colleges and universities in the Oval Office on Feb. 28, 2017.

Executive order, budget proposal advance promise

President Donald Trump has taken some early steps to fulfill his promise to "ensure funding for historic black colleges and universities," but it remains to be seen how much funding Congress ultimately provides.

The clearest step came on Feb. 28, 2017, when Trump welcomed leaders of historically black colleges and universities, or HBCUs, to the Oval Office for the signing of an executive order to launch a White House initiative "to promote excellence and innovation at historically black colleges and universities."

According to the executive order, the initiative is tasked with working with "agencies, private-sector employers, educational associations, philanthropic organizations, and other partners to increase the capacity of HBCUs to provide the highest-quality education to an increasing number of students."

It also created a presidentially appointed advisory board to advise the president "on all matters pertaining to strengthening the educational capacity of HBCUs."

The executive order provides rhetorical support and a direct line to the White House. Potentially the bigger step, however, came with the release of the president's fiscal 2018 budget proposal.

Overall for the Education Department, the White House proposed $59 billion in discretionary funding -- a $9 billion, or 13 percent, cut.

However, the budget proposal maintains current spending levels of $492 million for HBCUs and other institutions of higher education that serve minorities.

In addition, the Pell Grant program -- the financial-aid program that plays a key role in supporting the education of many students at HBCUs -- would also keep constant funding under the president's budget.

Given the substantial overall budgetary cut to the department, it's notable that these two budget lines were spared from reductions.

A final rating will need to wait until Congress provides actual funding bills. For now, we rate this promise In the Works.

Sources:

White House, video of President Donald Trump signing HBCU executive order, Feb. 28, 2017

White House, text of executive order on HBCUs, Feb. 28, 2017

Office of Management and Budget, presidential budget proposal, fiscal year 2018