Heads of historically black college and university presidents met President Donald Trump Monday and, well, it didn’t go so well.
For one thing there was aide Kellyanne Conway, who was photographed snuggled up on a sofa texting and seeming to demonstrate little concern or decorum for the visitors. Social media commentary was not kind.
Then there was Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, who cheered the colleges as “pioneers” of “school choice.” They were, of course, an answer to segregated education and a choice only if you meant whites then chose not to educate black people. She walked the statement back today, having been provided some history that she previously lacked.
DeVos got a ripping on social media, too. I note comments from people in Little Rock:
* Ryan Davis: “To paint historically black colleges and universities as pioneers of “school choice” is like saying the underground railroad was merely an exit strategy toward better employment.”
* Freeman McKindra: “The Movie 12 Years a Slave depicts one man’s struggle to find peace while taking personal time away from family!”
Walter Kimbrough, former Philander Smith College president and now the leader of Dillard University in New Orleans, was supposed to lead the White House interaction. He wrote about the experience here:
He said there was very little listening to college presidents in the time given. So this is some of what he WOULD have said, had he the opportunity:
In the past decade the wealth gap between whites and blacks has gone from seven to thirteen fold. The median net worth of a single parent white family is twice that of the two parent black family. Black students graduate with 31% more college debt than their white peers.
The Pell Grant should be the equalizer. It serves 36% of all students, 62% of Black students, and over 70% attending HBCUs. But the education as a private good philosophy has severely limited its impact on the neediest families.
Therefore we must:
• Raise the maximum Pell Grant, which has hit a 40-year low in purchasing power relative to college costs and index it permanently to account for inflation
• Restore year-round Pell Grants that enable students to finish college faster and with less debt;
• And remove time limits to benefit growing numbers of part time students who may require more than 12 semesters to graduate.