Trump Education Reforms Applauded by Black Activists

White House Higher Ed Proposals Align With Project 21’s “Blueprint for a Better Deal for Black America” Recommendations

Washington, DC – Black activists with the Project 21 black leadership network are applauding the Trump Administration’s newly announced reforms for American colleges and universities. Many of the policies announced by the White House align with recommendations made in Project 21’s “Blueprint for a Better Deal for Black America” to increase black opportunity and prosperity.

Policies in the Trump Administration proposal praised by Project 21 include more accountability, better accreditation processes and specific support for historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs). Project 21 members consider these provisions “Blueprint Compliant” because they are considered to be consistent with recommendations found in Project 21’s Blueprint.

“With more and more college students carrying large student loan balances at graduation, it’s imperative that colleges and universities provide a quantifiable return on investment,” said Project 21 Co-Chairman Stacy Washington, a former elected school board member. “The Trump Administration’s higher education proposal echoes the sentiments of parents across America: get an education that will yield a well-paying profession from a university that has a proven track record. Making accountability a central pillar for America’s higher education institutions makes perfect sense.”

Washington and other Project 21 leaders met with White House staff last year about the recommendations found in the Blueprint, a 57-point plan across a wide variety of issues to help black Americans reach their full potential. Project 21 members also met with Secretary Betsy DeVos and other U.S. Department of Education staff to present the Blueprint’s educational recommendations.

Noting that “the rising cost of college education and the accompanying growth in student loan balances erodes the wage premium associated with a college degree,” the White Houseacknowledged that “many colleges and universities have been unable to provide the necessary types of education in a cost-effective manner.”

In its Blueprint, Project 21 noted, “[t]he failure of K-12 school systems in preparing black students for college is compounded further by college admissions and support practices that set black students up to fail… This failure is reflected in the statistics for six-year graduation rates.” Project 21 also noted that dropping out not only saddles black students with debt, but can also “diminish future employment potential” and “sense of self-worth.” 

“I think it is a step in the right direction asking colleges to basically state their return on investment. In the business world, it’s something we ask of any investment. Why not ask that when one invests in a college education?” noted Project 21 member Marie Fischer, a working mother currently enrolled in post-graduate classes who was also a candidate for her county school board. “I work for a college. We are always told we are there for the students. By associating accreditation to student outcomes, we would be holding all colleges to that threshold. I think the Trump Administration’s five-page memo on reforming the Higher Education Act is a good start for reforming higher education – especially in light of the recent college admissions scandal.”

In order to “provide more Americans access to a quality education, hold institutions accountable and help students and families make informed decisions regarding their educational options,” the Trump Administration yesterday called on Congress to reform accreditation standards “to focus on educational quality and student learning, grounded in student outcomes.” Noting that “some institutions consistently fail to deliver the type of quality education that enables students successfully to repay Federal student loans,” the proposal suggested that a “better system would require postsecondary institutions that accept taxpayer funds to share in the financial responsibility associated with student loans.” The Trump Administration also proposed that Congress make federal advisory boards and working groups permanent “to continually improve the identity, visibility, distinctive capacity and overall competitiveness of HBCUs.” 

In its Blueprint, Project 21 recommended that schools be required to meet minimum graduation rate standards for both general and minority student populations to be eligible for federal student financial aid. It also recommended capping federal assistance in order to prevent federal student financial aid programs from fueling tuition inflation. Additionally, the Blueprint recommended additional funding for HBCU infrastructure, renovation and updating based on schools meeting the same minimum graduation requirements as other colleges and universities.

Project 21 recently criticized the American Bar Association’s House of Delegates for refusing to pass a resolution tying law school accreditation to the ability of at least 75 percent of the school’s graduates to pass the bar exam within two years of graduation. 

“It is encouraging that colleges might finally be held financially accountable for how they educate America’s children, as recommended in Project 21’s ‘Blueprint for a Better Deal for Black America,'” said Project 21 member Melanie Collette, who serves on the adjunct faculty of two universities. “This is a great start. But, as an educator with over 20 years of experience, I will know that black children will have really won when we are able to truly hold the public education system accountable for lowering the academic bar and treating black children as victims instead of victors.” 

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