President Donald Trump is applauded before signing an executive order to bolster historically black colleges and universities in the Oval Office on Feb. 28.
President Donald Trump is applauded before signing an executive order to bolster historically black colleges and universities in the Oval Office on Feb. 28. - 
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In the early days of his administration, President Donald Trump signed an executive order to strengthen the country’s more than 100 historically black colleges and universities.

“With this executive order, we will make HBCUs a priority of the White House, an absolute priority,” Trump said.

Michael Lomax was there. He’s president of the United Negro College Fund, which represents 37 HBCUs.

Since that February meeting, Lomax said: “The administration and the Department of Education, in our estimation, just have not really taken any substantive actions to demonstrate their commitment.”

The United Negro College Fund has joined the Thurgood Marshall College Fund and the Congressional HBCU Caucus in asking the administration to postpone an annual conference for HBCUs planned for next month. 

Lomax said members have been frustrated that the White House has yet to name a director or board of advisers to oversee its initiative on HBCUs. Then came Charlottesville, and Trump’s comments that “many sides” were to blame for the violence.

“I think they were a tipping point,” Lomax said.

Lezli Baskerville, president of the National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education, said while the Trump administration maintained funding for HBCUs in its budget, it proposed cuts to other programs that help low-income students.

“If you cut off all of those pipeline institutions, our institutions will not have students to enroll and graduate,” Baskerville said.

In a briefing Thursday, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters the conference will go on as scheduled and is fully booked. 

Follow Amy Scott at @amyreports