Why HBCU Enrollment is Exploding And What Officials Are Doing to Keep it That Way

School is out for summer. But HBCUs across the country only have a few more weeks to enjoy the silence before record numbers of new students hit their campuses in the fall – good news for the schools that have been producing a large percentage of Black professionals and students of color seeking a more nurturing and inclusive college experience.

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As Forbes reported, Howard University saw a 12 percent increase in applications for their incoming freshman class this year, receiving 37,000 applications for just 2,500 seats. Applications to Florida A&M University have almost doubled in the last two years. The Tallahassee HBCU received over 21,000 applications for less than 4,000 seats.

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The surge in interest is even impacting lesser-known HBCUs like Edward Waters University in Jacksonville, Florida, which has seen an over 160 percent increase in applications since 2019.

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Jennifer Price, Edward Waters’ Vice President of Enrollment Management, told Forbes that admitting more students has helped the school’s “reputation and influence to grow, creating a positive feedback loop that attracts even more high-quality applicants in the future.”

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Experts have pointed to several factors that have contributed to the increase in HBCU interest, including conservative’s efforts to dismantle Diversity Equity and Inclusion (DEI) programs at schools around the country and the Supreme Court’s June 2023 decision to take away colleges and universities’ ability to consider race as a factor in admissions.

HBCUs also have a proven track record of producing alumni who succeed in their chosen fields. According to White House data, 40 percent of all Black engineers, 50 percent of Black lawyers, 70 percent of Black doctors and 80 percent of Black judges.

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But as more students apply to HBCUs, more still needs to be done to make sure schools have the resources to keep them there. According to the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, HBCUs’ endowments are one-eighth the average size of historically white colleges and universities.

The schools are also doing their part to attract and retain new students by expanding their offerings. Xavier University in New Orleans signed an agreement in April with Ochsner Medical Center to establish a medical school, joining only four other historically Black medical schools in the United States.

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Philanthropists are also stepping up to help, with big money donors like Ronda Stryker, MacKenzie Scott and Netflix Chairman and cofounder Reed Hastings contributing millions to HBCUs around the country.

Michael A. Bailey, Executive Director of Undergraduate Admissions and Transfer Services at North Carolina Central University told Forbes that the recognition is long overdue.

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“I believe HBCUs are finally getting the recognition they deserve. We are being looked at for the excellent education and environment we produce,’’ he said.

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