Negative Race Relations Trigger Increase in HBCU Enrollment

After years of decline, brought on by tighter admissions standards and strict student loan requirements, enrollment at most historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) in Louisiana has increased slightly.

Last year, Grambling State University’s fall enrollment totaled 4,553, an increase of 49 students from the previous fall, said Damon Wade, vice president of institutional effectiveness and management of university registrations.

Similarly, Southern University and A&M College in Baton Rouge saw an increase in fall enrollment of 322 students in 2015, according to data reported by the Louisiana Board of Regents. And overall enrollment within the Southern university system increased by 628 students for the same year.

Grambling State University in Louisiana.

Higher education experts say the increase may be due in part to an increase in the number of non-black students attending HBCUs, as well as recent racial strife at predominantly white institutions.

But for some black colleges and universities, the enrollment trend is still down.

Enrollment at Dillard University has fluctuated over the past four years, with enrollment dropping by 15 students last fall.

The Southern University Law Center has seen a recurring decline in enrollment since 2013. Last fall, enrollment was down by 15 students.

The number of non-traditional black students is growing on campuses due to lower tuition, larger college programs and more students wanting to attend a safer college environment, said Marybeth Gasman, professor in higher education at the University of Pennsylvania and director of the Penn Center. for establishments serving minorities.

“We’re seeing an influx of Latino students and also Asian students into HBCUs, but it’s happening at all kinds of institutions,” Gasman said. “For a long time that wasn’t happening at HBCUs, and in the last five years it’s happened a lot more. Many schools will see more white students if they have an MBA program, a school of law or programs that are not in other institutions, but there are still prejudices and racism that prevent white students from going to HBCUs.”

File photo

Gasman also attributes negative media coverage of predominantly white institutions to triggering an increase in attendance.

“I think all the nationwide protests and shootings of black men and women played a part,” she said. “I’ve interviewed quite a few students who have told me that HBCUs are a safe place, a sanctuary.”

Grambling State University expects enrollment of 4,800 students this coming school year, up 247 students from last year. Although this is an increase, it would be well below enrollment in fall 2011.

“Overall, HBCU numbers are up, according to the institution,” Gasman said.

Wade said GSU has recruited international students over the past decade.

“About 10 years ago we had different pipelines in the Caribbean,” he said. “He’s maintained steady growth and in some of the other ethnic categories – we’re trying. It would be a very comfortable environment for students other than our traditional African-American student.”

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Dillard University President Walter Kimbrough said all HBCUs are expected to see an increase this coming school year due to negative media surrounding race relations at predominantly white institutions.

Although enrollment at Dillard has been declining for several years, the liberal arts institution projects a fall 2016 enrollment of 1,300 students, which would represent an increase of 115 students.

“I expect to see an increase in HBCU enrollment nationwide,” he said. “People look at HBCUs differently now. Do I want to go to school somewhere where I might be in a hostile environment? The University of Missouri had a national history on race relations.

“It’s going to be harder for places to diversify their student population because of the negative things that have happened, and HBCUs have taken advantage of that.”

Kelly Stevens, left, and Kinzara Sam chat outside the student center at Grambling State University in Louisiana.

The lower cost of attending an HBCU has also sparked interest, Gasman said.

“Another reason is low tuition, there has been a lot of national attention on tuition and HBCUs offer 50% lower tuition than majority institutions,” she said. declared.

Southern University System officials said targeted recruiting campaigns, an innovative alumni enrollment initiative, and creative recruiting strategies have helped boost enrollment across all SU campuses.

SUSLA Connect, a program created by the SU system in 2013, allows students who do not meet the Baton Rouge or New Orleans campus admission requirements to gain admission to Southern University Shreveport.

“Nearly 90 percent of students who do not meet SU Baton Rouge or SU New Orleans admissions standards are invited into the program,” SU System spokesman Henry Tillman said.

How we got here

For the past few years, historically black colleges and universities in Louisiana have experienced a drop or fluctuation in student enrollment numbers each fall.

Faculty and chancellors say declining enrollment is due to lack of funding and available resources, limited access to Parent Plus loans and more students wanting to diversify their education.

“With the push for the integration of historically white institutions during the civil rights movement, enrollment plummeted in HBCUs and their role in educating nearly all of the black middle class changed,” Gasman reports. The Changing Face of Historically Black Colleges and Universities” 2013 stated.

In 1950, black students made up 100% of enrollment at HBCUs.

By 1980, that number fell to 80% as more Hispanic, Asian and Caucasian students began attending HBCUs, which were specifically created to educate black citizens decades after the Civil War, according to Gasman’s report. .

Kimbrough said enrollment numbers for HBCUs declined when the U.S. Department of Education changed borrowing rules and credit standards associated with Parent Plus loans for undergraduates in 2011.

Before the changes were implemented, Kimbrough said parents could get a Parent Plus loan if they didn’t have a bad credit history involving more than 90 days of arrears, foreclosures and bankruptcies.

In 2011, write-off accounts or collection accounts that were not repaid within five years prevented many families from being approved.

According to a report published by the National Center for Education Assessment and Regional Assistance.

In Louisiana, this resulted in a drop in enrollment of 124 students at Dillard University.

“A lot of students were able to get more parent loans and then all of a sudden they weren’t,” Kimbrough said. “It wasn’t just the HBCUs; this has had an impact on all sectors that have a significant share of low-income students.

The Parent Plus loan situation has also caused problems at Xavier University, a private HBCU in New Orleans.

Richard Tucker, director of communications and media relations, said the institution lost more than 200 students after the rules changed.

In 2011, the university had 3,399 students, and as of fall 2012, only 3,178 students were enrolled.

“It caused similar problems at colleges across the country,” he said. “The US Department of Education has since reinstated the previous rules, but damage has been done.

Is there value in an HBCU education

HBCUs were created to educate black students, especially when Jim Crow laws and segregation took their toll on the black community.

Xavier University became a four-year college in 1925. It is still recognized as the only historically black Catholic university in the United States.

In 1901 Grambling State University was founded. Cheyney University in Pennsylvania was founded in 1837 as the Institute for Colored Youth and is known as the earliest founding date of any HBCU, according to the African American Registry.

Higher education faculty and chancellors say Black colleges and universities, private and public, are essential to the success of all students and necessary to ensure that historic values ​​are maintained.

Incoming GSU rookie Sarah Walker always knew she wanted to attend an HBCU.

“Grambbling State University was one of the first HBCUs to reach out to me,” the Ohio resident said. “I’m the only one in my class who went to an HBCU. I don’t think many of them wanted to leave the house yet and I really wanted to have a new experience.”

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Some students saw more value in attending non-HBCUs.

Students walk on the campus of Grambling State University in Louisiana.

Andrianna Williams, a graduate of Parkway High School and a freshman at LSU, said she wanted to have a diverse college experience and have more minority privileges, such as scholarships.

“College these days is expensive and with the TOPS program in play, I can’t afford it,” she said. “The only offers I had for HBCU schools were lower education standards than LSU, which is crucial for me since I’m going to pre-med.”

In order to retain students and continue to increase enrollment, HBCUs must ensure students understand the value of participation, Gasman said.

“You have to explain why the institution is a good place for an African American and what it can offer,” she said. “Majority institutions are constantly talking about the results and why this is a special place. You can’t just assume because someone is black that they’re going to come to an HBCU.”

By numbers; total registrations 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015

Xavier University 3,399 3,178 3,121 2,976 2,969

Southern University and A&M College 6,904 6,611 6,730 6,188 6,510

Southern University at Shreveport 2,820 2,931 3,016 2,936 3,222

University of the South in New Orleans 3,245 3,046 2,989 2,674 2,709

Southern University Law Center 707 755 682 635 620

Dillard University 1,249 1,307 1,183 1,200 1,185

Grambling State University 5,207 5,277 5,071 4,504 4,553

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