The country’s first African American president is finding himself increasingly at odds with a cornerstone of the African American community: historically black colleges and universities.
Leaders at these schools and some black lawmakers say the Obama administration has been pushing policies for years that hurt students at a time when historically black colleges are already cash-strapped and seeing a drop in enrollment.
Tensions spilled over after a recent Congressional Black Caucus meeting with Obama and Vice President Biden in which the president said that historically black schools, also known as HBCUs, needed to do a better job graduating students and not saddling them with debt, according to several people at the meeting. Some Black Caucus members bristled at those remarks since they say the president didn’t acknowledge that his own administration was also pursuing policies that advocates say are hurting the schools.
“The president thinks that HBCUs — and there may in fact be some — are failing our students,” said Rep. Marcia L. Fudge (D-Ohio), who was in attendance. “But there needs to be an open dialogue about higher education and why HBCUs have historically gotten short shrift when it comes to resources and recognition.”