Historically black colleges and universities don't have an official advocate in the White House yet — and that's bad news for the schools' financial stability.
Back in February, President Donald Trump signed an executive order to give those colleges a direct line to the White House. But months into the summer, college administrators "don't know where it's going."
Every presidential administration since Jimmy Carter has signed executive orders regarding historically black schools. The past four administrations appointed a director to the office by July of their first year.
The office for HBCUs currently only has four staffers and, more importantly, lacks a director. A White House spokesman told the Chronicle of Higher Education the administration had "several finalists" but hadn't made a final decision.
This means that HBCUs don't have a leader in the White House to advocate for schools' financial futures. And statements from Trump are making officials even more wary.
Back in May, Trump signed a statement suggesting a program that helped finance HBCUs was unconstitutional. His budget, published that same month, also made no moves to fund HBCUs and actually ended up cutting $85 million of discretionary funding for the schools.
Students of HBCUs have expressed disappointment about both the Trump administration and the initiative for HBCUs. For some, the meeting between Trump and the college presidents was just a "photo op." The lack of plans to go forward with the initiative just helps their point.
Outside of the White House, the Thurgood Marshall College Fund — one of the nation's largest advocacy groups for the black college community — announced in June its president, Johnny C. Taylor Jr., would be stepping down. The fund's board is now searching for a new president, and that makes two major HBCU organizations without leaders at the helm.
HBCUs have a history of unequal government funding, and many are now shouldering the weight of millions of dollars worth of debt. Stillman College is currently lobbying the Department of Education to modify or forgive its $40 million loan, and its financial future depends on it. Other schools, like Alabama A&M or Grambling State, have been approved for even greater loans.
According to a report by the United Negro College Fund, HBCU graduates were found to borrow nearly twice the amount of federal loans compared to non-HBCU students. Without an advocate in the White House, those loans could be taken away from them.
Advocates from the UNCF are pressing Trump to invest in schools, fulfill his promise and "do more for HBCUs than any other U.S. president."