Many are attributing the recent skyrocketing in HBCU enrollment numbers to the current social and political climate; race relations in America and the Black Lives Matter movement. Walter M. Kimbrough, president of the historically Black Dillard University in New Orleans, told The Washington Post, “Simply put, as we see young black people chant ‘Black Lives Matter’ in the streets, their actions clearly indicate that black colleges matter as well.”
According to The Washington Post, HBCUs like Claflin University in South Carolina and Harris-Stowe State University in St. Louis—just miles from where Mike Brown was killed in Ferguson—are welcoming a record high number of freshmen classes this year. Enrollment has also spiked at Shaw University (49 percent), South Carolina State (39 percent), Tuskegee University (32 percent), Virginia State University (30 percent), Philander Smith College (29 percent), Dillard University (22 percent), Central State University (22 percent), Florida Memorial University (20 percent) and Delaware State University (19 percent).
This comes after nearly 38 percent of HBCUs reported a 10 percent increase in enrollment between 2013 and 2014, according to the National Center for Educational Statistics.
For black students, Kimbrough wrote, HBCUs “serve as the original safe spaces.”
This upward trend goes back at least three years, according to University of Pennsylvania Professor Marybeth Gasman, director of the Penn Center for Minority Serving Institutions, and Ph.D. candidate Amanda Washington, a research assistant at the institute.
“Black students who choose to attend an HBCU are doing so to continue learning their history, to engage in an environment that appreciates their contributions, and to cultivate their minds in safe and welcoming spaces,” Gasman and Washington wrote.
In recent years, HBCUs have struggled financially, with some on the verge of collapse. Higher enrollment could help HBCUs keep their bond rating,their staff, and their accreditation status.