Why Are 1 In 4 HBCU Students Not Black?

The number of non-Black students who attend Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU’s) continues to climb.  Statistics show that the student body’s of these traditionally Black schools is changing, with an average of 1 in 4 students not being Black.  The statistics were compiled through research conducted by the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education.  There are multiple reasons this is happening, and here are some of them:

1. Legal Definition of HCBU

An HBCU is defined under the Higher Education Act of 1965 as a school “whose principal mission was, and is the education of Black Americans.”  What Congress did not define in this legislation is whether or not HBCU’s could continue to be classified as an HBCU if their historically Black student body changed to become mostly white.  This means that HBCU’s whose student body’s are made up of mostly white students are still able to receive federal funding meant to benefit Black students.

2. The Premature Declaration of a ‘Post-Racial World’

The election of Barack Obama is pointed to as a significant indication that we now live in a post=racial world where equal access and opportunity for Black people is the norm, making the concept of the HBCU irrelevant and even redundant.  This has perpetuated the notion that HBCU’s do not need to be preserved because they are no longer needed.  However, racial disparities still exist as evidenced by the fact that Black people still lag behind in quality-of-life indicators and education benchmarks compared to white people, meaning the declaration of a post-racial world is more a myth than a reality.

3. Forced Integration

In an attempt to enforce equal access and integration, a 1992 Supreme Court ruling led to a push by the federal and various state governments to increase the enrollment of white students and the recruitment of white faculty at HBCU’s.  Mississippi awarded HBCUs $500 million in grants in 2002 to upgrade their schools, but one of the stipulations was that schools had to have a specific number of white students and faculty in order to receive the money.  Tennessee State University faced a similar situation in 1992 when the state legislature demanded that the number of white students and faculty be increased by 50 percent by the following year or it would be shut down.

4. HBCU Budget Cuts By Obama

Obama continued the cuts to HBCU funding started by George W. Bush by decreasing the school’s budgets by up to $35 million during his first term.  During his second term, Obama made cuts to the Plus Loan program of $160 million causing more than 28,000 students to be denied loans preventing them from enrolling for the 2012 academic year.

5. Recruitment of Non-Black Students

A 2011 Wall Street Journal article, “Recruiters at Black Colleges Break From Tradition,” pointed out that multiple HBCU’s were no longer focusing their recruitment efforts exclusively on Black students.  According to the article, during the fall 2011 term, enrollment of Black students at Tennessee State University dropped by nearly 70 percent, and enrollment of Black students at Paul Quinn College was predicted to fall from 94 percent to 85 percent.

6. Reduction In Number of Black Faculty

One of the experiences many Black HBCU students look forward to is being taught by Black faculty members.  Research has shown that Black students are more likely to enroll in an HBCU and be more productive workers after graduation when HBCU faculty is mostly Black.  An example of this is Bluefield College in West Virginia where Black faculty make up less than one percent of the number in previous decades and the enrollment of Black students has fallen to under 10 percent.

7. Desegregation, Diversify or Die

As HBCUs have had to increase enrollment in order to survive, more of them have been forced to market themselves to students from a myriad of racial backgrounds.  This is also coupled with the fact that fewer Black students had to attend HBCUs in order to get a college degree once desegregation took placed.  According to research conducted by the Ford Foundation, more than 75 percent of Black college graduates attended an HBCU before desegregation.  Currently, less than one out of six Blacks who attend college go to an HBCU.

8. No Money, More Problems

HBCUs are financially strapped and are many times plagued by low graduation rates and other poor outcomes, which makes it hard for them to attract students.  They are also forced to compete with majority white institutions for funding and top students.

9. The Attack on Black Middle Class

Dr. Jahi Issa summed up this phenomenon in his article The Ethnic Cleansing of HIstorically Black Colleges & Universities, stating, “Over the past few decades, HBCUs have been targeted as being too ‘Black’ and many states are progressively trying to eliminate African Americans from these institutions that have served as a buffer zone for the Black middle class.  Some HBCUs have and are going through hostile takeovers in order to turn them into White education facilities and thereby permanently eliminating the African American middle class.”

10. Demographic Changes

Black HBCU students are being replaced by students from other ethnic groups.  Asian enrollment at HBCUs rose by 60 percent between 2001 and 2011 according to research done by the University of Pennsylvania.  Asian and Hispanic students now make up about 3 percent of HBCUs total student population.



8 Comment

  1. Maybe we should be asking why the best Black Athletes no longer attend HBCU schools.If the schools are to survive,they need students from SOMEWHERE. Why aren't the wealthiest African Americans contributing to HBCU schools?

  2. Black folks desired to be integrated into mainstream white Amerikkka at any cost ! This is a case of, you get what you reach for !

  3. To piggyback on Khalid’s comments, why are Black Americans including prominent PhDs, politicians and many activists not supporting, attending or sending kids to HBCUs. It is one thing to blame others, but many in Black America snubbed HBCUs with the thinking that having degrees from “the HWCU” means they have made and are accepted. As an HBCU alumni, I could have taken the money and run to the big HWCUs, but chose an HBCU. There were trying times, but the experience made me more resourceful, stronger, competitive and successful than anyone from a HWCU. At the end of the day, you can talk and write articles about HBCUs or step up and support these institutions (e.g. time, money and networks) to produce globally competitive graduates.

  4. We must save our HBCUs!

  5. It’s pretty simple in principle. You can not have a desegregated society and still have racially segregated universities because it is now illegal to do so. So unless you wish to return to a segregated, Jim Crow America, this is the price you must pay. HBCUs also must be desegregated just like the HWCUs.

  6. I went to MVSU back when the bathroom toilets would flood the halls leaks in the roof of the dorms … We protested for change we finally got the Ayers Bill passed …. But one thing I can’t understand why want black people support HBCUs …. If the Catholics support Notre Dome the Mormons support BYU why can’t we support our universities

  7. As others have stated in our zeal to intergrate we took for granted and stop supporting our own educational institutions as well as our black communities and businesses etc. We have a black wealthy class about 2% of the black population but it might as well be 0% for all the support we get from them. We did this to our selves. It’s telling that so many of us voted for and supported a president who’s half black and he’s participating in our HBCU demise. We are also so eager to support our wealthy black celebrity’s (athletes, entertainers etc) but we are silent when they turn their back on us in favor of supporting white people. We are learning the hard way that racial diversity isn’t what it’s cracked up to be. It’s only benefiting a small portion of black people anyway. Maybe some good will come out of not being able to intergrate so easily. Perhaps now we will go back to depending on ourselves and not those who never cared to intergrate with us to begin with. I always felt the whole notion of racial diversity was about there was something wrong with working around living around and being educated around just black people. Diversity being pushed by so call black leaders seem more about being validated by white people than equal opportunity for black people.

  8. Just wanna input on few common things, The web site layout is perfect, the articles is quite superb : D.

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