by Selam Aster
Historically Black Colleges and Universities play a far different role today then they did well over a century ago. Times have changed, and so have the 105 HBCUs that still exist today. Recently, the Wall Street Journal illuminated the fact that more than 17 percent of the students in attendance are not Black. That number is not random.
Recruiters from top HBCUs are seeking out to diversify their enrollments. As competition has become stiff for Black students across the country, many of these schools can’t rely solely on Black students to fill up their classrooms. As private colleges, they still heavily rely on tuition to maintain and expand. Not only is there more competition to attract the top Black students but there is even more competition to attract mid-level students and those seeking vocational degrees as online schools have inundated education market in the past decade.
Michael Sorrell, president of Paul Quinn College in Dallas, has made an extra effort at recruiting by offering “presidential scholarships,” to students of all races. Of the 20 students that were selected to receive the scholarship, six have been Hispanic or white. Offering scholarships to non-Black students may raise some questions but on a publicity scale, the move definitely will help promote the school’s attractiveness to non-Black students.
With HBCUs looking to recruit talent across the board, many say their number one commitment is still providing a complementary and inspiring learning environment for Black students, who would otherwise represent the minority at other schools. “Black colleges do a good job by another measure, in educating students who enroll with less money and lower college-entrance test scores, on average, than incoming freshmen at other schools, Marybeth Gasman, professor of higher education at the University of Pennsylvania’s graduate school of education told the Wall Street Journal. “Historically black colleges and universities enroll 16% of all black undergrads, but award 25% of the bachelor’s degrees received by African Americans.”