NEW ORLEANS -- Local leaders at Historically Black Colleges and Universities are hoping promises made to them last week in Washington D.C. are kept after meeting with the President.
More than 80 presidents and representatives from Historically Black Colleges and Universities across the country are returning from the White House.
They want President Donald Trump and Congress to know the dire need for additional funding at their institutions.
Representatives from local universities said the February 27 meeting with the President was a shock.
"As I keep trying to tell people, that wasn't on the agenda," Dillard University President Walter Kimbrough said. "We didn't know that was going to happen. We didn't think we were going to see him because he was preparing for his Tuesday night speech."
However, they said nothing was discussed in detail at the meeting with Trump.
"The meeting with the President was actually more superficial," Xavier University President Reynold Verret said. "It was a meet and greet and people actually took a picture. So, there was no conversation, no discussion of substance there."
HBCU leaders traveled to Washington to meet with lawmakers and Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. Both Kimbrough and Verret called the meetings productive.
"They promised some things for us that I think are important and my job is to hold them accountable," Kimbrough said.
The university presidents are asking Congress and Trump for additional funding and infrastructure improvements.
"You have under-resourced students attending under-resourced institutions," Kimbrough said.
Verret said many of their students rely on Pell Grants for school.
"Right now 60 to 70 percent of students at HBCU's are Pell eligible," Verret said. "The numbers at Xavier are probably greater than 50 percent as well."
Verret said the sad reality is that many students at Xavier and other students across the country do not finish school, are delayed or transfer to another institution because of financial reasons. They make it so close to the finish line, but do not cross it because they cannot afford it.
Xavier University Junior Gabrielle Walker dreams of becoming a nurse. However, she fears that money and tuition costs could stand in her way.
"Not a lot of us come from wealthy families, so we're starting from low-income homes and that's the huge thing," Walker said. "That's the huge concern. Even with a part-time job, that doesn't pay the whole thing. Even with scholarships, that's still not enough."
Both Verret and Kimbrough said it's students like Walker they are fighting for and they will continue doing so until Washington addresses their needs.
"All we can do is vigorously advocate for our positions. We didn't get everything from the Obama administration either. And so you have to keep pushing," Kimbrough said.
President Trump recently signed an executive order, relocating the HBCU Initiative from the Department of Education to the White House. The move helps HBCU's in their push to receive further advantages and leverage for achieving their goals. However, the HBCU presidents WWL-TV spoke with said more action needs to be taken to help students.
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