Black Colleges Actively Recruiting Nonblack Students

Survival trumps tradition?

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Hampton U elected a white homecoming queen in 2009. (Google)

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that historically black colleges and universities are actively recruiting nonblack students. Sue Shellenbarger reports that many of the nation's 105 historically black colleges are increasingly wooing nonblack students, in what has become a mutually beneficial relationship for schools and students. The goals: to boost lagging enrollment and offset funding shortfalls.

Some black colleges are stepping up recruiting at mostly white or Hispanic high schools and community colleges. Delaware State University is bringing 100 Chinese students to its Dover campus this fall for cultural and language training. Other colleges are showcasing unique programs. Florida Memorial University in Miami Gardens promotes its chorale, which backed Queen Latifah in the 2010 Super Bowl, for example. Even top-ranked black schools such as Howard University in Washington, D.C., and Spelman College in Atlanta are recruiting more aggressively in the face of intensifying competition for top African-American students.

About 82 percent of students at the nation's 105 black colleges are African American, a percentage that has been fairly constant over the past 30 years, according to a data analysis for the Wall Street Journal column by the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, a New York nonprofit. Increases in Hispanic and Asian students have offset declines in whites, partly because of cuts in federal and state scholarship programs that encouraged white students to attend historically black colleges, says the fund's president, Johnny C. Taylor Jr. He predicts growth in white, Hispanic and Asian enrollment as black colleges cast a wider net.

We're glad the Wall Street Journal has discovered what is commonly known at HBCUs: There is racial, religious, gender and cultural diversity on their campuses. Recruiting outside of your core group makes sense, especially since blacks have many more options than before. Furthermore, with the elimination of affirmative action programs and massive cuts in funding at mainstream universities, it stands to reason that more whites and Hispanics would be seeking education elsewhere. Yes, affirmative action helped white students, too.

Some graduate and professional programs at HBCUs have been extremely diverse for decades now. It's no surprise that colleges and universities that have always valued diverse populations would reach out to nonblack populations in the interests of continuing this tradition and surviving.

Read more at the Wall Street Journal.

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