Trump questions constitutionality of federal funding to HBCUs

A 25-year-old federal program that helps finance construction projects for historically black colleges and universities could be at risk under the Trump administration.

On Friday, President Trump signed a $1 trillion spending bill. In his statement, Trump referred to the Historically Black College and University Capital Financing Program Account as one example of programs that "allocate benefits on the basis of race, ethnicity, and gender.

He goes on to say his administration will deal with such programs "in a manner consistent with the requirement to afford equal protection of the laws under the Due Process Clause of the Constitution's Fifth Amendment."

With those words, Trump seems to be calling the constitutionality of funding such programs into question, with the United Negro College Fund issuing a statement, saying it's "puzzled" by the provision.

Cheryl Smith, senior vice president of public policy and government affairs at the UNCF, told Politico the program Trump used as an example isn't based on race but on "mission, accreditation status and the year the institution was established."

University of South Carolina law professor Derek W. Black cautions that Trump's statement seemingly hinting at potentially defunding programs doesn't cite any legal proof that they are discriminatory.

Black also pointed out to Politico that religion or disability weren't included on the list, wondering why only "race, ethnicity and gender" were listed in the statement.