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Political climate results in 'HBCU Renaissance'

Cyril Josh Barker | 11/2/2017, 8:16 a.m.
Reports indicate that enrollment at historically Black colleges and universities is climbing. Higher education experts believe the uptick is a ...
Students react as First Lady Michele Obama delivers the commencement address at the North Carolina Agriculture & Technology commencement ceremony in Greensboro, N.C., May 12, 2012 Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy

Reports indicate that enrollment at historically Black colleges and universities is climbing. Higher education experts believe the uptick is a result of the election of President Donald Trump.

With what’s being called an HBCU Renaissance, freshman enrollment at several Black schools has increased in recent years. Many schools are reporting large numbers of new freshmen enrollment for the 2017-2018 school year.

“There’s a lot of different factors that have pushed to this. It’s really been happening for the last two years,” Morgan State University professor Jason Johnson said in one televised interview. “North Carolina A&T, Howard, Morgan State, Johnson C. Smith, Fisk, Tuskegee—all these [universities] are seeing 20, 30, sometimes 50 percent increases in their incoming classes.”

North Carolina A&T is one school that has seen record numbers in freshman enrollment. In a statement the school announced a fall enrollment total of 11,877 students, the largest in the school’s history.

“The growth we’re experiencing this fall illustrates how much students, parents and families want to be part of the North Carolina A&T experience,” said Chancellor Harold L. Martin Sr. “We deliver an education that not only prepares our students for rewarding careers in an increasingly competitive global marketplace, we deeply value each and every individual who entrusts us with that responsibility. Our students know that their success matters here.”

Kentucky State University also reported a larger freshman class. Justin Mathis, director of admissions, said KSU increased the total number of freshmen enrolled from 194 to 510, a surge of 316 more students or 162.9 percent.
“We lost more than 35 new students who could not afford to close the financial gap. Our enrollment efforts and strategies include developing a financial aid plan and investing in institutional aid and scholarships to help alleviate the financial stress of earning a Kentucky State degree,” Mathis said. “We are committed to providing a quality education championed by a supportive campus culture.”

Experts say several factors are playing a role in more Black high school students opting to attend HBCUs, including the current political climate, better ways to pay for college and racial tensions on many predominantly white campuses.

Headlines continue to make the news of racist activity at several majority white schools. One recent incident happened at Providence College in Rhode Island where a racial slur and offensive photo was posted on Snapchat.

Another incident occurred last month at Boston College where Black students reportedly walked out of classes after signs were found in a residence hall that said “Black Lives Don’t Matter.”

“The other part of the conversation with students and parents that I’m hearing is that they are concerned about their students being in those environments that they feel are hostile with macro- and micro racial aggressions,” said Dillard University President Walter Kimbrough during a radio interview. “As you look at a lot of the demands, people are asking for more Black faculty, more Black staff, Black living spaces, Black-centered curriculum. Well, HBCUs have provided these things for almost 200 years.”