The meeting is expected to include discussions about opportunity, strengthening relationships and the importance of HBCUs, in addition to a luncheon and wrap-up tour at the National Museum of African American History and Culture.
Paris Dennard, a GOP political commentator and consultant, said while speaking to African-American leaders in the Roosevelt Room at the White House on Feb. 1 for the kick-off of Black History Month, he discussed job creation, infrastructure in inner cities and HBCUs with Trump.
“I think (Trump) was very concerned about HBCUs as a whole,” he said. “He asked direct questions about the state of HBCUs currently and asked inquisitively what is the Harvard of HBCUs. Because there were two or three graduates in the room, they all chimed in and said Howard University.”
Omarosa Manigault, the director of communications for the Office of Public Liaison in the administration, is an alumnae of Central State University in Wilberforce, Ohio, and Howard University in Washington, D.C. She will participate in the “fly-In,” along with Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), Rep. Bradley Love (R-Ala.), Rep. Mia Love (R-Utah) and former Rep. J.C. Watts (R-Okla.).
Additionally the schedule includes Cheryl Smith, the vice president of Public Policy and Government Affairs at the United Negro College Fund and Johnny Taylor, the president of the Thurgood Marshall College Fund (TMCF).
“I think this is a good move, and it makes sense,” said Dennard, also the director of strategic communications for the TMCF. “Most likely it will be Republican officials who have an impact on HBCUs especially since they are the majority in the House, Senate, and at the federal level.”
Dennard noted HBCU funding was cut under President Barack Obama, while changes were made to the Pell Grant, making it harder for low-income students to obtain monies.
Last year, the Obama administration said it invested $4 billion in HBCUs in seven years and also created the White House Initiative on HBCUs.
“You don’t have a lot of presidents going to HBCUs,” said Renee Amoore, a Pennsylvania Republican who has worked with Trump’s transition team. “This dialogue started before (Trump) was president. He’s big on diversity inclusion.”
“We had a robust discussion around the many challenges facing higher education and the important role of HBCU,” DeVos said in a statement.
“Howard University plays a unique and valuable role in the fabric of our higher education system, and I am honored to help celebrate its 150th anniversary. I look forward to visiting many schools across our great country and continuing the discussion on how we can increase access to affordable, quality higher education.”
“I think it’s a fantastic move,” added Randy Robinson, a Philadelphia Republican strategist. “I hope Sen. Tim Scott, HBCU leaders and presidents have a serious agenda and a frank conversation.”