Although overall enrollment is on the rise at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), fewer men are attending these institutions, The Washington Post reports. This decline reflects a drop in Black student enrollment at higher education institutions across the country, which has huge implications for efforts to diversify the workforce and close the racial wealth gap, experts say.
Many HBCUs, including Morgan State, North Carolina A&T State, Prairie View A&M, and Howard University, have attracted new students due in part to increased attention these institutions have received since the election of Vice President Harris, a Howard University graduate.
An influx of transformative donations from prominent philanthropists amid national discussion about racial inequities has heightened awareness about the importance of HBCUs, which graduate most of the nation’s Black doctors, teachers, judges, engineers, and other professionals in scientific and technological fields, according to the Thurgood Marshall College Fund.
However, at many HBCUs, one in three undergraduates are men. At Howard, which has gained over 3,000 students since 2016, just one in six of those additional students have been men. Men “seem to be falling through the cracks,” Calvin Hall, department chair and associate professor at North Carolina Central University’s Mass Communication department, tells The Post. The loss of these students means their voices aren’t heard. “If one group is not seen,” Hall says, “it makes it easier for people to discount and to disregard and set aside.”
Confronting ‘belief gaps’ and other barriers
A gap between what students can actually achieve and the low expectations of others, including teachers, principals, and school counselors, is partially to blame for this decline in enrollment among Black men, according to a report from the United Negro College Fund. Research has also shown that non-Black teachers of Black students were found to have significantly lower expectations for their Black students than Black teachers do. “By the time they are set to graduate from high school, Black male students often do not feel they are college material,” The Post says.
Some of the Black men who don’t have positive school experiences are drawn to jobs that they can get now without the delayed gratification of higher education, experts say, even though HBCU graduates can expect to earn 56% more than they would earn without their HBCU degrees or certificates.
To attract more Black men, some HBCUs are hiring recruiters focused on outreach to Black male students and emphasizing the sense of belonging an HBCU can provide. Some schools are also partnering with businesses to offer students larger scholarships as college cost concerns and worries about student debt turn potential students away. In 2020-21, the net price at private HBCUs for students living on campus was over $30,000, while the on-campus net price for public HBCUs was $23,000, The Post reports. Black college graduates also hold an average of $25,000 more student debt than white graduates, according to the Education Data Initiative.