WASHINGTON (AP) — Republicans are planning to meet with leaders of historically black colleges and universities in the nation's capital to discuss ways to help the schools survive in challenging times.
The meeting, spearheaded by South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott and Rep. Mark Walker of North Carolina, will bring leaders from the nation's 100-plus HBCUs to the Library of Congress on Feb. 28 to meet with Republican officials and supporters and discuss ways for the colleges and universities to work with the federal government and corporations.
President Donald Trump said during his campaign that he wanted to ensure funding for HBCUs, which have been pushing for more high-level attention from leaders in Washington, D.C.
There were more than 231,000 students at these schools in 2014, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. Almost 80 percent were black.
Total enrollment at HBCUs declined from 326,614 to 294,316 between 2010-2014, according to the latest information available from National Center for Education Statistics. The percentage of black college students attending a historically black college or university also dropped from 18 percent of the overall total in 1976 to 8 percent in 2014.
Johnny Taylor, president of the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, said since Republicans are in charge of the White House and Congress, HBCUs cannot afford not to have discussions with the GOP about their future.
"The reality is that if you don't have Republican support, you may not have federal support at all," said Taylor, whose organization works to support HBCUs and their students.
Walker said he also believed that it was important for both sides to talk.
"I believe it is as important as ever to have Republicans engage with HBCU," said Walker, who noted his wife is a graduate of Winston-Salem State University. "Our goal is to bring bipartisan support to HBCUs and create an open dialogue to address issues they face."
Scott said HBCUs have brought great value to the world.
"For decades our nation's HBCUs have graduated amazing and talented individuals who have gone on to achieve remarkable accomplishments," Scott said. "From Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to Nobel Prize winner Toni Morrison and famed writer Langston Hughes, we have seen how HBCU grads have shaped the direction of our country."
One of these schools was front and center for Trump's inauguration.
Talladega College raised more than $670,000 on a GoFundMe page to offset the cost of its trip to the nation's capital to march in the inaugural parade, after several other schools declined to participate. The school's president also received an invitation to the White House afterward, college spokesman Greg Wilson said.
Wilson said the money not used for the trip would be earmarked for new band equipment, school needs and college scholarships.
The school's band received a great welcome in Washington, and the reaction to their performance has been positive, Wilson said. But he did add that not everyone was happy with the majority-black college's decision, Wilson said. "There were some individuals, and not just alumni, who are still upset that Talladega College made the decision to march in the parade," he said.
Trump got 8 percent of the African-American vote in his presidential election.