DeVos Changes Tune on HBCUs, Saying They Were Born of Necessity, Not ‘Choice’

A day after calling historically black colleges and universities “pioneers of school choice,” Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said on Tuesday that HBCUs did not originate out of “mere choice.”

“But your history was born, not out of mere choice, but out of necessity, in the face of racism, and in the aftermath of the Civil War,” Ms. DeVos said in a prepared statement at a luncheon for leaders of HBCUs. She later repeated the phrase in a tweet.

Tuesday’s statements contrasted with Ms. DeVos’s comments on Monday in a news release that read, in part: “HBCUs are real pioneers when it comes to school choice. They are living proof that when more options are provided to students, they are afforded greater access and greater quality.”

Those comments drew widespread criticism, including from leaders of historically black colleges who were in Washington this week to meet with President Trump and members of Congress. The president of Dillard University, Walter M. Kimbrough, said Ms. DeVos made the school-choice analogy in an earlier meeting with HBCU presidents.

“I think she was honestly trying to find a way to connect her experience with HBCUs,” he said.

Tuesday’s luncheon occurred ahead of a planned executive order on HBCUs, expected for release Tuesday afternoon.

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