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The Economist

WHY IS INTEREST GROWING IN AMERICA’S BLACK COLLEGES AND UNIVERSITIES? Six months ago prospects looked dire for many historically black colleges and universities (hbcus): around 100 institutions, mostly in the South, which together boast 290,000 students. A few stars in the sector dazzled, such as Howard University in Washington (where both Kamala Harris and the actor Chadwick Boseman studied) or Morehouse in Georgia. But expectations for many were low.

Most have a distinguished history, founded after the civil war to educate freed slaves who were denied entry to white-only colleges. They trained the bulk of black doctors, lawyers and teachers and so helped create the African-American middle class. They still turn out over a tenth of all black graduates, but they are struggling. Overwhelmingly, their students are poor and new to higher education. Harry Williams, head of the Thurgood Marshall Fund, which helps the 47 public hbcus (containing the bulk of students), says 73% qualify for Pell Grants, aid for the poorest. …

President Donald Trump brags that he “saved” the hbcus. Such talk annoys some presidents, but they also praise him. He has “been beating the drum on hbcus as a cornerstone of his education platform from month one of his time in office”, says M. Christopher Brown, president of Kentucky State University. “The action and the money don’t lie,” says Mr Williams. Many like the fact that Mr Trump met and spoke thoughtfully to hbcu leaders, and that he forgave loans to some hard-hit colleges. “These seeds have been sprinkled under him,” says Mr Brown. He may be reviled, says Mr Carter, but “he did some substantive things”.

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