Members of the Congressional Black Caucus have accused President Obama of not caring about the plight nor prognosis of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU), and says Obama told them that those HBCU’s that cannot keep up with the times will have “to go by the wayside.”
According to the the CBC, Obama, a two-time Ivy League graduate, showed little empathy nor value for predominantly black colleges in his first meeting with the caucus in over two years. In fact, Obama was heavily critical of many HBCUs, according to CrewOf42.com, a blog that covers the CBC and black lawmakers on Capitol Hill.
“Once again, HBCU advocates find themselves protecting Historically Black Colleges and Universities from the Obama Administration. In this episode, President Obama has announced a plan to provide two years of free tuition to community colleges without finding out what the impact would likely be on state funded HBCUs,” the blog reads. “In 2009, soon after the President entered office, House Democrats had to hussle to replace HBCU funding cut from the Administration. In 2011, the Department of Education cost HBCUs $150 million after a quietly orchestrated change in Parent PLUS loan standards. In all cases, no one bothered to find out what the policy change would mean for Black colleges.”
George Curry from the NNPA was even more blunt in his assessment of Obama’s views of HBCUs: “Is Barack Obama, the nation’s first African American president, trying to kill Historically Black Colleges and Universities? If he’s not, he’s going to have a difficult time convincing HBCU presidents, trustees and alumni,” Curry wrote. “Surprisingly, Obama has become their worst nightmare. Neither Obama, the First Lady, the Secretary of Education or the president’s closest advisers attended an HBCU and, consequently, are tone death in recognizing what is broadly viewed as sound policy can inadvertently harm our nation’s HBCUs.”
President Obama said that low graduation rates, not federal funding cuts or his community college free tuition plan, were the greatest threats to HBCUs.
“He said there were some HBCUs that were not good at graduating students and if they did not improve they’d have to go by the wayside,” said Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA). “In other words he didn’t show much empathy for struggling HBCUs. It was like show me the numbers and if the numbers aren’t where they need to be, that’s it. It was a somewhat callous view of the unique niche HBCUs fill,” Rep. Johnson, a graduate of Clark Atlanta University, said. Rep. Johnson said there needs to be a deeper discussion with the President on HBCU issues.
Johnson was not alone in his harsh sentiments and view of Obama.
The CBC’s First Vice Chair, Rep. Yvette Clarke (D-NY) said, “I was concerned about what the President said because it feeds into a narrative about the value of these institutions and whether they are equip to educate our students and what the cost is for doing so,” Rep. Clarke added. “Many of these institutions have not had a maintenance of effort on the part of states or the federal government and over time that wears on their ability to maintain standards or even advance beyond a certain level. It was very clear that he doesn’t have the same level of appreciation for what these institutions have done and could do in the future given the right support systems,” Rep. Clarke concluded.
Obama would have to do some explaining to black Americans and advocates for HBCUs. But, based upon his actions during his two terms — and the fact that blacks helped vote him back into office again — Obama doesn’t feel the need to explain much of anything to HBCU supporters.