On Friday, I learned that I was selected to give remarks today for the
meeting at the White House with members of the Trump administration, most
notably Secretary Betsy DeVos. We learned this weekend that there would be
closing remarks by Vice President Pence, but the goal was for officials from
a number of Federal agencies (about 5 were there including OMB) and
Secretary DeVos to hear about HBCUs.
That all blew up when the decision was made to take the presidents to the
Oval Office to see the President. I’m still processing that entire
experience. But needless to say that threw the day off and there was very
little listening to HBCU presidents today- we were only given about 2
minutes each, and that was cut to one minute, so only about 7 of maybe 15 or
so speakers were given an opportunity today.
So this is what I was going to say today in my 2 minutes. The UNCF will also
share my comments. But it is important that I share in advance of Tuesday¹s
speech by the President because I am discussing specific funding that
benefits ALL college students, but especially those at HBCUs.
Statement by Walter M. Kimbrough, President, Dillard University
In his Oscars acceptance speech, Mahershala Ali celebrated
American’s belief in the transformative power of education when he first
thanked his teachers and professors. Historically black colleges and
universities are living testimonies of this power, the central force in
educating people inextricably linked to the promise of America.
Fifty years ago a philosophy emerged suggesting education was no longer a
public good, but a private one. Since then we¹ve seen Federal and State
divestment in education, making the idea of education as the path to the
American dream more of a hallucination for the poor and disenfranchised.
There is no doubt who is left to hallucinate.
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
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.
Pell is a great investment especially at HBCUs where new studies indicate we
do the best job, as Brookings noted vaulting lowest-income kids into the
top quintile as adults.
Pell is a vehicle to prevent hallucinations of opportunity, while helping to
fuel HBCUs, engines of social and economic mobility driving families toward
the American dream.