President Barack Obama celebrated the accomplishments of America’s historically black colleges and universities on Monday, telling a group of leading African-American educators that while major progress has been made in expanding access to higher education, it’s time to “take stock of the work we have left to do.”

The president’s remarks helped kick off National Historically Black Colleges and Universities Week.

You have “waged war against illiteracy and ignorance and won,” Obama said at the White House. Historically black institutions of higher education have “made it possible for millions of people to achieve their dreams.”

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Obama noted that the federal government is slated to spend $850 million in aid to historically black colleges over the next decade.

In February, the president signed an executive order establishing an initiative designed, among other things, to boost the participation of traditionally black colleges and universities in a variety of federal programs. It also aims to strengthen various public-private partnerships at those institutions.

The initiative is based out of the Department of Education.

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