WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama on Friday signed an executive order strengthening the long-standing White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities.
Obama says these schools have felt the pain of the recession most acutely because they enroll a higher proportion of low- and middle-income students. He’s calling for increased funding for historically Black colleges in his proposed budget.
The president said that historically Black colleges and universities still play a vital role and that their success is crucial to a better future for all Americans. He’ll speak at the commencement ceremony for one of these institutions, Hampton University in Virginia, this spring.
“This initiative originated in President Carter’s administration; it expanded under President Reagan; and it’s been renewed by each president since, to help these schools give their students every chance to live up to their full potential. And I’ve asked Dr. John S. Wilson, a Morehouse man, to lead it under my administration, and Dr. (William) Harvey to serve as chairman of its advisory board,” Obama stated during the signing ceremony in the East Room of the White House.
The nation’s 105 historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) are in 20 states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. Virgin Islands and serve more than 300,000 undergraduate and graduate students. These institutions are critical engines of community service and economic growth and are proven facilitators of intergenerational advancement for men and women of all ethnic, racial and economic backgrounds, particularly African-Americans.
Among the executive order’s provisions is that it authorizes the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities to be headquartered in the U.S. Department of Education. Under its current executive director, Dr. John S. Wilson, the Initiative will lead the Obama administration’s efforts to partner with federal departments, agencies and offices.
The partnerships work on five important tasks: strengthening the capacity of HBCUs to participate in federal programs; fostering private-sector initiatives and public-private partnerships that would include promoting specific areas and centers of academic research and programmatic excellence; improving the availability, dissemination, and quality of information concerning HBCUs to inform public policy and practice; sharing administrative and programmatic practices within the HBCU community for the benefit of all; and exploring new ways of improving the relationship between the federal government and HBCUs, according to States News Service.