While enrollment numbers increase at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU), the focus must shift on retaining and graduating students.
For years, HBCUs struggled to stay open, while some were forced to shut their doors. Issues that keep these institutions vulnerable such as funding, competing with Predominantly White Institutions, and fraught administrations still remain; however, the rise of the Trump Administration parallel the increase of enrollment of students into schools mostly located in the southern region of the United States.
Good Is reported that heightened racial and social unrest, even at educational institutions, contribute to the increase of students. “The racial unrest in this country probably has a huge impact on enrollment rates,” says Dr. Jacob Butler, chairperson of the division of social sciences at Morris College, a small HBCU located in South Carolina, in Good’s interview.
We are living in a time where the current president seems to embolden racists to be more overt with their actions,” Butler argues. “Even before President Trump, we saw situations at other institutions where racial tension has erupted on campus. We’ve witnessed protest on campus and students pushing back against racial injustice.”
This trend of providing a safe space is a shift, as several HBCUs have sordid history of enacting brutal methods to silence or punish protestors for political justice. Southern University, Grambling University, Morehouse and Jackson State University, expelled, assaulted and in some cases, killed student protestors in the 1960s and 70s.
Now, that HBCUs offer a haven for those in a racially hostile climate, administrators scramble to keep students and matriculate.
While Spelman College, ranked one of the top HBCUs by U.S. News & World Report, and the top college to graduate students in under six years, many of its contemporaries, such as Morehouse College, its brother school, fail miserably to do so. The low graduation rates have created a gap between matriculation numbers between HBCUs and PWIs.
During the Obama Administration, he pledged $1 billion to help strengthen the infrastructure of schools. In a twist of outcomes, the federal loan policy restricted parents in taking out loans for their children to attend HBCUs. A rigid credit scoring system blocked low-income or struggle low middle-class parents for taking out loans.
Then Hampton University President William Harvey said in an interview with the Washington Post that HBCU presidents were not consulted when changes to policy were made. When Obama left office, he also left a bad taste in the mouth of HBCUs.
According to Johnny C. Taylor, president of the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, schools were “permanently damaged” under Obama.
Nevertheless, college administrators strategize to create better experiences for students and offer classes and programs to ensure student success.