HBCUs see surge in applications from students seeking belonging

Following the Supreme Court’s decision to end race-conscious admissions, some Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) are expecting an ongoing influx of applications from students looking for campuses where they feel their cultures will be celebrated, The Los Angeles Times reports.

“We are anticipating that over the next three years, we will likely see an increase in our applications, somewhere between 50 [%] and 100% as a direct consequence of this decision,” David Anthony Thomas, president of Morehouse College, a private, historically Black men’s college, tells the LA Times

Although the court’s decision did not prohibit college applicants from discussing their race or ethnicity in essays and other materials, educators say the end of race-conscious admissions may send a message to students of color that they should apply to colleges that prioritize their belonging.

Applicants drawn to welcoming campuses

Morehouse is one of several HBCUs that have seen a surge in applications since the protests after the May 2020 murder of George Floyd, according to data Morehouse submitted to the LA Times. In 2018, Morehouse received about 2,300 applications for its incoming class; that number had risen to 3,200 in the application cycle taking place fall 2020. The college received 5,200 applications for its current first-year class, up 122% from its 2018 numbers. 

Howard University has also seen growing interest, going from 11,600 applicants in 2013 to over 32,000 in 2023, according to data provided by the university. Howard’s undergraduate enrollment also rose, from 6,500 in 2019 to almost 10,000 in 2023. 

New momentum shifting the narrative

The growing student interest in HBCUs marks a shift in the schools’ trajectory. HBCUs, originally founded to educate Black students who were excluded from attending predominantly white colleges, experienced enrollment declines after racial segregation was ruled illegal. The percentage of Black college students enrolled at HBCUs dropped from 18% in 1976 to 8% in 2014, and was 9% in 2021, according to data from the National Center for Education Statistics.

In addition to more applications, HBCUs are attracting much-needed funding from philanthropists, such as MacKenzie Scott, and support from the Biden Administration. Kamala Harris, a graduate of Howard, is the first United States Vice President to have attended an HBCU. In September, Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona and Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack urged 16 governors to fund land-grant HBCUs, which have seen a $12 billion funding disparity o compared to non-HBCU land-grant institutions.

“Unacceptable funding inequities have forced many of our nation’s distinguished Historically Black Colleges and Universities to operate with inadequate resources and delay critical investments in everything from campus infrastructure to research and development to student support services,” Cardona said in a press release. “We need governors to help us invest in their states’ HBCUs at the equitable level their students deserve, and reflective of all they contribute to our society and economy.”

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