Are HBCUs on ‘brink of disaster?’

Historically black colleges and universities award 26% of the bachelor’s degrees and 32% of the STEM degrees earned by black students
By: | October 28, 2019
HBCUs tend to enroll and graduate an outsize number of African American students in the states in which they are located. While some of these schools are struggling financially, others are seeing record enrollment.HBCUs tend to enroll and graduate an outsize number of African American students in the states in which they are located. While some of these schools are struggling financially, others are seeing record enrollment.

Historically black colleges and universities are ‘on the brink of disaster,’ according to The Hechinger Report

HBCUs enroll and graduate one-quarter of all black college students in the states in which the institutions operate, according to a July 2019 University Business story on the United Negro College Fund’s “HBCUs Punching Above Their Weight” report.

Some 15 HBCUs have closed since 1997, and the total endowments of all of these institutions is about 70% smaller than that of non-HBCUs, according The Hechinger Report, which urged leaders to broaden their market campaigns and find new ways to engage alumni.


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Yet, ongoing racial tensions in the country and harassment of black students on some campuses have driven an increase in enrollment at HBCUs, according to research done by The Rutgers Center for Minority Serving Institutions at the Rutgers Graduate School of Education.

About one-third of HBCUs have experienced record increases in applications and enrollment over the past three years, the report found.

One HBCU, Morgan State University in Maryland, has grown enrollment by recruiting more Hispanic, white and international studentsThe Washington Post reported.

“Morgan has never said to a student, ‘You can’t come here because of your race,’ unlike the traditionally white institutions in the state of Maryland,” Morgan State President David Wilson told The Post. “Morgan is an HBCU. It will always be an HBCU.”


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While HBCUs comprise just 8.5% of the country’s four-year institutions, these schools award 26% of the bachelor’s degrees and 32% of the STEM degrees earned by black students, according to the UNCF report.

“The findings are just confirmation of what the HBCU leadership community has been saying all along,” Roderick L. Smothers, president of Philander Smith College in Little Rock, Arkansas, told UB in July. “When you look at the outcomes, one has to pause to ask how our institutions are doing this miraculous work with the resources we have.”

The institutions also help power local, regional and national economies, generating 134,090 jobs and $14.8 billion each year.

“If you put 100 HBCU presidents in the room, and asked what their most critical needs are, I think we would all say, ‘scholarships for students and money to close the affordability gap,” Smothers told UB.


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