One of the most enticing things about a college experience is the freedom. Freedom to express yourself without a high school dress code. Freedom to reinvent yourself. Freedom to meet people from all over the world. At Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), black students are granted the freedom of community.
Being a part of the majority is something that black students might not ever experience unless they attend an HBCU. Students across the nation are starting to realize this. With influences from social media, sports, and publicity from national figures, HBCUs are in the spotlight. According to npr.com, “There are a number of factors behind the change — including boosts from famous graduates such as Vice President Kamala Harris, an alumna of Howard University — but some black students and their families see a safer learning environment with these institutions.” Success stories such as Kamala Harris’s shed a positive light on HBCUs. She was able to go from Howard University to the second in command to the President of the United States. With that, enrollment went up.
Following years of a downward trend in enrollment, HBCU enrollment has increased. Flashy football teams, sparkling majorette dance costumes, and booming bands are just a few of the main attractions to HBCUs. Recently, donations from billionaires ensured a promising future for schools. This, in turn, made HBCUs more attractive to applicants. There are HBCUs known for producing black doctors. There are schools known for engineering. There are schools such as Alcorn State University that use its landscape to produce black agriculture experts. Like any college, there is a wide variety of HBCUs to consider when it comes to the right fit for a student.
There is a sense of unity at Historically Black Colleges and Universities. That unity lends itself to students feeling safe and secure. National attention brought forth negative actions taken toward HBCU students and staff. According to washingtonpost.com, “But old tensions have also returned to HBCUs. At least two dozen campuses have received bomb threats this year. Federal legislation to boost funding for the country’s 102 HBCUs has stalled as many campuses continue to struggle with the legacy of generations of inequitable state support.” Beneath the flashiness and trendiness, HBCUs battle real issues. Constantly in the news with moldy bathrooms, low housing space, and poor student services, are HBCUs worth the hype? Most college students worry about their safety on a small scale, such as walking to the dorms at night or crossing the street, but most college students do not deal with bomb threats fueled by hate.
Lack of funding is an immense issue that HBCUs face. Big Southeastern Conference or Power 10 schools that bring in more money for the state get federal funds to put toward their already flourishing campus. On the other hand, when HBCUs receive money, it usually goes towards non-cosmetic fixes. Maintenance for old buildings or paying off debts is where the money can go.
Created as a safe haven for black scholars, HBCUs have come a long way. Starting on an uneven playing field, its founders sought to create the best learning environment for students. Presently, the students and administration at HBCUs uphold a legacy every day. Regardless of the enrollment trends, HBCUs are here to stay. With years of history and tradition, they are just as important as predominantly white institutions. It is up to current students and administrators to keep the conversation going. Keep the spotlight on HBCUs.