Presidential order could help Atlanta’s historic black colleges and universities

Local college presidents visit White House

Leaders of Atlanta’s historically black colleges and universities hope an executive order President Donald Trump signed Tuesday will result in more support such as increased Pell Grants and improvements to older buildings in dire need of repair.

Trump’s order moves the office dedicated to supporting the schools from the U.S. Department of Education to the White House. Some describe that a symbolic but important first step in strengthening his administration’s relationships with the nation’s 107 HBCUs, including those in Atlanta, such as Morehouse College, Spelman College and Clark Atlanta University. The order also proposes increasing the role of the private-sector, including private foundations, in improving infrastructure and technology at HBCUs, and it pledges to increase their ability to apply for federal grants.

“In this executive order, we will make HBCUs an absolute priority,” Trump said to applause during the signing ceremony Tuesday.

Morehouse President John S. Wilson said Trump is hoping to outdo his predecessor, former President Barack Obama, the nation’s first African-American president, in his outreach to HBCUs.

“They did the outreach to us,” Wilson said. “They said ‘We understand you and we want to treat you better.’”

HBCU leaders said their most important goal is to get more money for the colleges, which educate about 20,000 Georgia students, many of whom have trouble affording tuition. The order does not address funding, but HBCU leaders expect to discuss the topic in meetings later this year.

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