What Is An Executive Order?

An executive order is a signed, written, and published directive from the President of the United States that manages operations of the federal government. They are numbered consecutively, so executive orders may be referenced by their assigned number, or their topic. Executive orders are not legislation; they require no approval from Congress, and Congress cannot simply overturn them. Congress may pass legislation that might make it difficult, or even impossible, to carry out the order, such as removing funding. Only a sitting U.S. President may overturn an existing executive order by issuing another executive order to that effect. [1]

Like both legislative statutes and regulations promulgated by government agencies, executive orders are subject to judicial review and may be overturned if the orders lack support by statute or the Constitution.[2] Major policy initiatives require approval by the legislative branch, but executive orders have significant influence over the internal affairs of government, deciding how and to what degree legislation will be enforced, dealing with emergencies, waging wars, and in general fine-tuning policy choices in the implementation of broad statutes.

HBCU Executive Orders



  • Jimmy Carter
  • Ronald Regan
  • George H. W. Bush
  • William J. Clinton
  • George W. Bush
  • Barack Obama
  • Donald J. Trump

Established a federal program to overcome the effects of discriminatory treatment and to strengthen and expand the capacity of HBCUs to provide quality education. Required the Secretary of Education (Secretary) to consult with federal agencies to establish annual goals to increase the ability of HBCUs to participate in federally sponsored programs. Tasked agencies to identify and eliminate unintended regulatory and procedural barriers to increase the participation of HBCUs in an agency’s programs. Required agencies to designate an internal liaison to implement the Executive Order.  Tasked the Secretary to submit an annual report to the President to include the levels of participation by HBCUs in Federal programs. (Order No. 12232)

Sought to involve private sector institutions. Required annual plans to consist of “measurable objectives” to increase the ability of HBCUs to participate in Federally sponsored programs. Tasked the Secretary of Education (Secretary) to develop an integrated Annual Federal Plan for assistance to HBCUs. Required each President of an HBCU to have the opportunity to comment on the proposed Annual Federal Plan prior to consideration by the President. Sought to stimulate initiatives to improve HBCUs management, financial structure, and research efforts.  Required agencies to submit mid-year annual reports specifying the agencies performance of its measurable objectives. (Order No. 12320)

Established the President’s Board of Advisors on HBCUS (Board). The White House Initiative on HBCUs, within the Department of Education, was tasked to provide staff, resources, and assistance to the Board. The Board was tasked with advising the President on how HBCUs can achieve greater financial security through the use of improved business, accounting, management and development techniques. The White House Office of National Service (ONS) prioritized HBCUs. The ONS encouraged the private sector to assist HBCUs through private sector matching funds to support increased endowments. Sought to increase HBCU student participation in part-time and summer positions in the Federal government. (Order No. 12677)

Emphasized enhancing institutional infrastructure and facilitating planning, development, and the use of new technologies to ensure long-term viability and enhancement of HBCUs.  Federal agency heads tasked with establishing annual goals to enter into appropriate grants, contracts, or cooperative agreements with HBCUs.  Agency heads were required to provide information to HBCUs regarding agency programs and technical assistance to prepare applications or proposals for grants, contracts or cooperative agreements. Required a senior level executive in each agency to have oversight in implementing the executive order. (Order No. 12876)

The President’s Board of Advisors (Board) was charged with providing advice to the President regarding faculty as well as institutional development in addition to areas of infrastructure and academic programs. Federal Department and agency annual goals were required to be clearly reflected in the department’s or agency’s annual budget submission to the Office of Management and Budget. The Secretary of Education was tasked with providing a copy of an integrated Annual Federal Plan to each HBCU President for comment prior to submission to the President. Departments and agencies were required to utilize (1) student and faculty doctoral fellowships and faculty development; (2) undergraduate and graduate internships; and (3) summer, part-time, and permanent employment opportunities. Directed the Department of Education to provide funding and administrative support for the Board and the White House Initiative on HBCUs. (Order No. 13256)

In addition to executive departments, agencies, offices, and the private sector, directed the White House Initiative on HBCUs to work with educational associations and philanthropic organizations as well. Established an Executive Director to serve as the Executive Director of both the White House Initiative and the President’s Board of Advisors on HBCUs (Board). Each agency plan encouraged community involvement in improving the overall capacity of HBCUs. Established the Interagency Working Group to help advance and coordinate the work of Federal agencies in implementing the Executive Order on HBCUs. Defined the term “historically black colleges and universities”. Each executive department and agency were charged with bearing its own expenses of participating in the Initiative. The Board was tasked with advising the President in engaging the military and homeland security in a national dialogue regarding new HBCU programs and initiatives. (Order No. 13532)

Established the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) (Initiative) to be housed in the Executive Office of the President – removing the Initiative from within the U.S. Department of Education. The Initiative has two primary missions: (1) increasing the private-sector role in strengthening HBCUs; and (2) enhancing HBCU’s capabilities to serve our Nation’s young adults. The Order seeks to explore new ways of improving the relationship between the Federal Government and HBCUs. In addition, the Order expresses the Trump Administration’s desire to partner with elementary and secondary education stakeholders to build a “cradle-to-college” pipeline. (Order No. 13779)

Sources: 1. American Bar Association, What Is an Executive Order?, November 27, 2018: https://www.americanbar.org/groups/public_education/publications/teaching-legal-docs/what-is-an-executive-order-/