Will HBCUs Survive a Donald Trump Presidency?

Welcome to the new post-racial America; the one where it’s not people being colorblind, but blinded by color.

Welcome to the new post-racial America; the one where it’s not people being colorblind, but blinded by color.

There’s reason for rage in the hours after Donald Trump’s historic election as an apolitical, angst-driven candidate on the “mad white folks” platform. Politics as we knew them, have been completely obliterated. Trump defied pollsters, odds, conventional wisdom, common sense and the Scooby Doo Detective Agency in winning the highest seat in governance, and the uncertain aim of both houses comprising its congress.

Black people are scared, and those of us running historically black colleges should be absolutely frightened. There is a prevailing sense among some leaders that we’ll be able to do what only Russia has successfully done with Trump as a political figure: get him to listen to and facilitate our interests. But given Trump’s victory without the agony of having to meet demands and concerns of black people, there’s no room to assume that we’ll have an easier time under President Trump than we did under President Obama, whose policies decimated HBCU enrollment and were designed to punish HBCUs for serving underserved populations.

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Trump has pledged to dismantle the Department of Education, which is highly unlikely to happen. But short of that, what steps could Trump take to marginalize support structures for all of America’s students? What programs could be first on the chopping block for a president who has already said he will undo more than 20 of Obama’s executive orders on Day One?

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Fortunately, we can learn a lot about what exactly we should fear under a Trump presidency from the GOP playbook on higher education, as outlined in its 2016 Republican policy platform.

Student Financial Aid

The federal government should not be in the business of originating student loans. In order to bring down college costs and give students access to a multitude of financing options, private sector participation in student financing should be restored. Any regulation that increases college costs must be challenged to balance its worth against its negative economic impact on students and their families.

  • What happens if Trump eliminates federal oversight of student lending, and allows or requires banks oversight on lending decisions based upon future job prospects?

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  • Could Trump and a supportive House and Senate reduce key programs like the federal Pell Grant financial aid packages, in order to put the burden of financing education on school endowments?

Trump on higher ed
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  • Trump hits the right notes on student repayment plans, but at what costs will tuition reduction impact smaller state and private HBCUs? Will there be pressure on states to help institutions cut tuition rates, and if they do, how much of that will be distributed to HBCUs? How much will be dictated by performance-based funding metrics, or federal rules constructed around similar concepts?

International Development

Deregulation

In order to encourage new modes of higher education delivery to enter the market, accreditation should be decoupled from federal financing, and states should be empowered to allow a wide array of accrediting and credentialing bodies to operate. This model would foster innovation, bring private industry into the credentialing market, and give students the ability to customize their college experience.

  • No one knows what the future of accreditation will look like under Trump, but we do know that his school was not accredited, and his remarks on reducing compliance costs for institutions could be a back door into limiting the value of accreditation in federal aid or assessment initiatives.

And then there’s the GOP’s take on for-profit institutions.

We need new systems of learning to compete with traditional four-year schools: Technical institutions, online universities, life-long learning, and workbased learning in the private sector. Public policy should advance their affordability, innovation, and transparency and should recognize that a four-year degree from a brick-and-mortar institution is not the only path toward a prosperous and fulfilling career.

  • If Trump maintains support for for-profit institutions, could we see a resurgence in these schools being established, recruiting millions of students nationwide, and siphoning from the HBCU and community college student pool?

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Federal Funding and Advocacy

  • Trump has positions on environmental preservation, climate change, alternative energy and homeland security — and each of these areas present opportunities for funding from federal agencies. What happens to grant-making opportunities from the agencies which fund the largest share of HBCU research - which outside of defense and homeland security leaves the Department of Health and Human Services and Department of Transportation - if Trump’s budgeting priorities take away from these areas?

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  • Will programs like the US Department of Education’s HBCU Capital Financing Improvement Act and efforts to preserve historic buildings on HBCU campuses remain under Trump?

  • Will there continue to be a federal initiative with specific support to HBCUs? And if there is, will it report to the Secretary of Education or directly to the president? Will it be staffed by personnel with knowledge of and connections to HBCUs? Or someone like Omarosa Manigault, the Howard alumna other Howard alums don’t hardly want to claim?

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These are just a few of the questions, in addition to possible ramifications that may come from repeal of the Affordable Care Act, funding for Planned Parenthood, and other key areas for minority support and associated research funding. We all should be scared, and not just because the nation endorses a xenophobic demagogue, but because some of the stuff he believes, members of Congress will be willing to pass in the new conservative manifest destiny.