President, First Lady to Deliver Commencement Addresses to HBCUs

White House Office of Media Affairs

This month, President Obama, the First Lady, and officials from throughout the Administration will deliver commencement addresses to Historically Black Colleges and Universities across the nation.  This weekend Mrs. Obama will send off the graduates of University of Arkansas – Pine Bluff Saturday, May 8th and President Obama will greet the graduates of Hampton University Sunday, May 9th.  In total, eleven HBCUs will receive commencement addresses from Obama Administration officials this year.

Other officials participating in graduation ceremonies include Secretary Robert Gates, Department of Defense (Morehouse College), Secretary Arne Duncan, Department of Education (Xavier University), Administrator Charles Bolden, NASA (Huston-Tillotson University), Valerie Jarrett, Senior Advisor to the President (Morgan State University), Melody Barnes, Director, White House Domestic Policy Council (Virginia Union University), and Ambassador Susan Rice, United Nations (Spellman College).  In addition, John Wilson, Executive Director of the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities, is scheduled to speak to Wilberforce University, Wiley College, and Harris-Stowe State University.

America’s 105 Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) are where generations of African Americans have gained a sense of their heritage, their history, and their place in the American story. President Obama values the historic contributions HBCUs have made in educating students who previously would have been denied a college education.  Many of these schools began during Reconstruction as small schools with limited resources; today these are some of our nation’s top institutions of higher education, nurturing our nation’s future leaders.

During a recent White House ceremony honoring HBCUs, President Obama spoke of the importance of these institutions to the well-being of not just the African American community, but to the entire nation.

President Obama said, “[W]e’re not only doing this because these schools are a gateway to a better future for African Americans; we’re doing it because their success is vital to a better future for all Americans.”

HBCUs are also critical to the President’s goal of achieving the highest percentage of college graduates in the world by the year 2020.  As part of the effort to achieve this goal, HBCUs will receive $850 million over the next 10 years as a result of the recently passed Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act.  Combined with the $150 million provided to Predominately Black Institutions, $1 billion has been authorized by this Act to serve institutions with predominately African American student populations.

These resources are in addition to scheduled increases in the Federal Pell Grant program, which are awarded to low-income families and do not have to be repaid.  The Obama Administration has nearly doubled the aid available in the program from $18.2 billion in the 2008-2009 award year to a proposed $34.8 billion in 2011-2012, and the maximum Pell Grant is expected to increase to nearly $6,000 in coming years.  More than half of the students attending HBCUs qualify for Pell Grants and other financial aid.

In February President Obama signed a new executive order strengthening the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities.  Under the leadership of executive director John Wilson, the office is designed to serve as the liaison between HBCUs and the federal government working to increase the capacity of these institutions to participate in federal programs through grant awards, private-sector initiatives and public-private partnerships.

Obama Administration HBCU Commencement Schedule*

Saturday, May 1st
·         John Wilson, Executive Director, White House Initiative on HBCUs – Wilberforce University

Saturday, May 8th
·         First Lady Michelle Obama – University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff
·         Secretary Arne Duncan, Department of Education – Xavier University
·         NASA Administrator Charles Bolden – Huston-Tillotson University
·         White House Domestic Policy Director Melody Barnes – Virginia Union University
·         John Wilson, Executive Director, White House Initiative on HBCUs – Wiley College

May 9th
·         President Barack Obama – Hampton University

May 11th

·         John Wilson, Executive Director, White House Initiative on HBCUs – Harris-Stowe State University

May 15th
·         Valerie Jarrett, Senior Advisor to the President – Morgan State University

May 16th
·         Secretary Robert Gates, Department of Defense – Morehouse College
·         Ambassador Susan Rice, United Nations – Spellman College

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