Why HBCUs Must Get to Know Jerry Falwell Jr.

Meet the Evangelical college president who will be running American higher education.

Meet the Evangelical college president who will be running American higher education.

Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. will head an education task force that will support the Department of Education and the work of its likely secretary Betsy DeVos. The son of the famous televangelist who heads the powerful Thomas Road Baptist Church and Liberty brands in Christian and higher education communities, will now add higher education policy oversight to his professional profile.

Falwell is likely to do the work DeVos does not know how to do, and for the Trump Administration, that’s mainly deregulation of standards set by the Obama Administration on issues like sexual assault reporting, postgraduate employment and debt repayment outcomes, and scaling back punishments on for-profit colleges.

But once that task is done, it’s not like the task force is going away. And Falwell said as much last week.

Jerry Falwell Jr. Says He Will Lead Federal Task Force on Higher-Ed Policy
Jerry L. Falwell Jr., president of Liberty University, has been asked by President Trump to head up a new task force…www.chronicle.com

Mr. Falwell said Mr. Trump had first asked him to head up the task force in November, when the two met at Trump Tower in New York. At the time, Mr. Falwell said he had declined Mr. Trump’s offer to become U.S. education secretary because “I wanted a role that would allow me to stay at Liberty.”

Mr. Falwell praised President Trump’s nominee for education secretary, Betsy DeVos, whom he met for the first time recently, at a service at the Washington National Cathedral. “The task force will be a big help to her. It will do some of the work for her.”

HBCUs should be excited about deregulation. If successful, all of the rules which the Obama White House pointed squarely at for-profits will now hopefully be eliminated before the barrel can swing towards black colleges. And according to a recent memo from the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, issues like student affordability and access for low-income families will likely remain a priority for the task force.

Memo From David Warren to Jerry Falwell, Jr.
Source document contributed to DocumentCloud by Web Producers (Chronicle of Higher Education).www.documentcloud.org

Not everything is good news, however. Deregulation means that rules requiring stronger reporting metrics for sexual assault will be relaxed, which could encourage an increase in lawsuits from students alleging negligence against schools in investigations and sanctioning.

Reorganizing could also mean that federal funding for programs like TRIO, federal work study and some Title III programs could be redirected to Pell Grant support, which places a heavier burden on HBCUs to ensure enrollment and retention remain stabilized.

But HBCU leaders should also be seeking some assurances. Priorities for the higher education task force should include reprieve from states cutting budgets to HBCUs and other special mission schools without a formula to account for the work of enrolling and graduating students from low-income families and sub-standard secondary education systems.

The task force would also do well in recommending penalties for states which do not match funds to historically black land-grant schools, to prohibit states like Missouri, South Carolina and Louisiana from starving public HBCUs out of business.

They should also be asking for a comprehensive assessment from the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights, in partnership with the Department of Justice, to release a report on harmful budget reduction practices and program duplication among public HBCUs throughout the south. For every program at a proximate predominantly white institution which duplicates one at an HBCU, the Department should consider withholding funding against states like Maryland which have willfully violated the constitution in creating unequal systems of higher ed for black and white students.

Richardson Outlines Disparity in HBCU 'Equality Lawsuit' | Afro
Week two of the remedial phase of the Maryland Higher Education Desegregation Trial, as the case is popularly known…afro.com

It is not fair for states to cut schools so dramatically, when their policies have wasted state resources on dual systems while continuing to seek federal support for the same.

Surprisingly, there is a lot for HBCUs to be excited about under a Trump administration. Or maybe it shouldn’t be that surprising after all.

Black Republicans Say Donald Trump Can Make HBCUs Great Again…But Ya’ll Playing
So can we now have the conversation about holding Democrats accountable?hbcudigest.com