Why HBCUs Are Seeing a Rise in Applications and Enrollments

When it came time for Mikayla Terry to apply to college last fall, the 18-year-old made Clark Atlanta University one of her picks. The research institution in Georgia’s biggest city was founded three months after the Civil War ended, to educate Black Americans. Today the majority of its 3,000 undergraduates are Black and it’s known as one of the top historically Black colleges and universities, or HBCUs, in the U.S.

“I wanted to go to a school where everyone looked like me and was having the same struggles as me,” says Terry, whose public high school in Montclair, New Jersey has a diverse student body. “I wanted to be in a place where we could embrace our culture and not get glared at for it.” This spring, she was offered a full scholarship at Saint Leo, a well-regarded Catholic school in Florida. But instead she chose Clark Atlanta, which has not yet made her a final scholarship offer. “I want that sense of feeling welcome,” she says, “of not being judged or worrying about saying something or having to code switch.”

Terry is among a record number of applicants to HBCUs this year. Figures aren’t available for all 105 HBCUs in the U.S., but many are reporting that they’ve seen both a spike in applications and enrollments.

Earlier this week, Inside Higher Ed reported that while the media has covered the rise in applications at elite schools like Harvard and Yale, HBCUs have also been flooded with student interest. Among the schools attracting applicants: Morgan State University, North Carolina A&T State University, Spelman College and Howard University.

“This is a historic high for Morgan,” says President David Kwabena Wilson. Morgan drew attention in December when out of the blue, Jeff Bezos’s ex-wife, philanthropist and author MacKenzie Scott (net worth: $56 billion), donated $40 million to the school of 6,500 undergraduates in Baltimore. Wilson says that when he learned about the donation, he cried. “I was quite emotional,” he says. “I couldn’t believe that someone had finally done their homework and had concluded that Morgan State was one of the best investment opportunities in higher ed in the country.”

As of April, Morgan State had received 14,600 undergraduate applications, a nearly 60% increase from the previous year. “The proverbial cat is out of the bag,” says Wilson. “Students are recognizing that Morgan has high-quality programs. . . and they can study at an institution that was really built on the notion of Black excellence.”

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SOURCE: Forbes, Susan Adams