September 29, 2023

Why aren’t more Black students attending HBCUs?

By: Roy Douglas Malonson

 This past year put Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) on the map. The election of Howard University graduate Kamala Harris for the second highest position in the nation – Vice President — along with the historic accomplishments of esteemed political leader and voting rights activist Stacey Abrams from Spelman College, put an end to the myth that claims HBCUs don’t prepare you for the real world once and for all.

So why are so many of our children running to the white folks?

HBCUs have witnessed an unprecedented influx of incoming freshmen this year. But are these trends in HBCU applicants permanent? What makes Black college prospects choose Predominantly White Institutions (PWIs) over HBCUs?

As a business owner and a large supporter of African American youth, our company has given out multiple scholarships in the past to graduating high school seniors to launch them on their college careers, but we noticed something, most of the students took that money and fed it into white colleges, instead of going around their own people. It’s not their fault, it is society’s, because so many of us are taught that “the white man’s ice is colder.”

When deciding on what colleges to attend, students have a lot of options to weigh, and ask themselves many questions.

How will my university affect my career?

We’ve all heard the saying, “it’s not what you know, but who you know,” and to a certain extent, we know this to be true. So, when thinking about what universities to attend, most students want to know how their choice would affect future job prospects. According to a study by the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, first-year earnings for identical degrees can have as much as an $80,000 difference based on which college an employee attended. For many Black students, it can feel as though going to a more well-known university will open doors to a higher salary or a chance with competitive companies. While there are well known HBCUs like Howard University, Spelman College, Morehouse College and Texas Southern University, the vast majority of Black universities are under the radar.

How much financial aid can I receive from my HBCU?

The most important factor for many students, especially Black students, in choosing a university, is the amount of financial aid they will receive. For many HBCUs, funding is just enough to keep the doors open. HBCUs are fighting to provide more funding for better financial aid offers, but while many PWIs have the funding to provide full ride scholarships and large amounts of need-based scholarships, most HBCUs do not. According to the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans, Black student graduates acquire nearly $25,000 more student debt than their white counterparts. With this reality, many Black students find it difficult to choose between a full ride from a PWI and financial aid from HBCUs. To give an example of how drastic the financial aid between PWIs and HBCUs can be, one student shared that her financial aid offer from Spelman College included a $45,000 loan for just one year and no university scholarships, while the majority of her tuition, housing, and other fees from Syracuse University were covered. So, it’s not hard to see why the student could have chosen one school over the other.

Our best effort is to direct students applying to HBCUs to scholarship sites such as the Thurgood Marshall College Fund and the United Negro College Fund, whose scholarships cater to HBCU applicants.

Will attending an HBCU hurt my chances at pro sports?

Many student athletes choose primarily white institutions over Black universities because of the limited exposure HBCUs receive in sports, particularly in collegiate football. For student athletes hoping to make it to the big leagues, attending an HBCU can seem like a risky situation. Pro football scouts are notorious for depending on televised games to seek talent. This was proven by this year’s NFL draft, which ended with no players from HBCUs being signed due to shutting down the football season because of COVID-19. A new generation of celebrity student athletes such as Shaquille O’Neal’s son, Shaqir O’Neal, are dedicated to attending HBCUs and changing the narratives surrounding Black universities. The young O’Neal selected Texas Southern University.

“We are very excited that Shaqir O’Neal has chosen TSU to further his education and athletic career.  As the son of a fellow Omega Man, we will make him feel at home with his Tiger Family,” TSU interim president Kenneth Huewitt said.

A recent trend in top players from around the nation attending Black universities is inspiring more and more student athletes to choose HBCUs.

What is an HBCU really about?

Finally, there are Black students who have not been exposed to HBCUs. Many are surprised to learn the amount of people who came up in predominantly white schools and had little exposure to Black universities. Kamala Harris, Stacey Abrams, and many other political leaders and celebrities are putting the spotlight on HBCUs, in addition to various entertainers like Chadwick Boseman, Phylicia Rashad, Debbie Allen, Anthony Anderson, Spike Lee, Toni Morrison, Taraji P. Henson, Spike Lee and many others.

The rise in social injustice and the amount of HBCU graduates in leadership positions are turning a new leaf in how many Black teens view HBCUs. Stigmas surrounding the quality of education and experience at HBCUs are changing as more and more Black students choose Black universities. More than likely these trends in Black university admissions are here to stay. We hope you learn, stick together and build your own future leaders. In the end, there is NOTHING like the BLACK experience!


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