For students across the country, it’s the most anxiety-inducing time of the year: college admissions season. But in Lynwood Unified School District in Southern California, an “HBCU caravan” recently gifted students at two high schools with instant acceptance letters and affirmations.
In total, two dozen historically black colleges and universities offered 381 students “on-the-spot admissions” to their schools, writes the Los Angeles Times. They also gave approximately $5.8 million in scholarship funding (an average of $15,223 per student).
The caravan served its obvious role: to put HBCUs on the radar of people who hadn’t seriously considered them. Several of the students who spoke to the Times were planning on attending state schools but were thrilled about the programs and funding available to them if they chose to go to an HBCU. The admissions also eased worries for students with lower GPAs—a reminder that a college education could be both accessible and affordable.
“My job is to make sure students don’t feel defeated by their GPAs,” Quen-Taylor Brown, admissions recruiter for Benedict College in Columbia, S.C., told the Times. “Even if it’s low, there are lots of opportunities for college.”
High schooler Tyron Smith told the Times he had assumed his low grades meant he would need to attend community college first. Then he spoke to a recruiter from Florida A&M University, who touted the school’s computer science and football programs.
“I didn’t think I could do much with a 2.5,” Smith, who is now considering attending the Tallahassee-based school, said. “But if everything he told me holds up, this looks great.”
The HBCU caravan was organized by Theresa Price, founder of the National College Resources Foundation in Diamond Bar. Twenty years ago, Price kicked off the first Black College Expo in Los Angeles, which recently drew more than 200 schools. The Black College Expo now occurs annually in 10 other cities.
For students who were eyeing other schools, the on-the-spot acceptances and generous scholarship offers compelled them to look at their desirability as students in a different light. This was the case for one student, junior Johnathan Vincson, who received a fall 2021 letter of acceptance to Benedict College and an offer for $57,120. The aspiring business and engineering major (he was considering Arizona State) told the Times the package inspired him to “work even harder” to raise his GPA and increase his SAT scores.
Admitting students with lower GPA scores may seem controversial, particularly when considering how low graduation rates are at many HBCU campuses. It might seem fair to question the net good done by admitting a student who may not feel ready—financially or otherwise—to attend college.
But as a recent study from the nonprofit Education Trust makes clear, those figures are complicated by the fact that HBCUs enroll a much higher rate of low-income students than primarily white institutions do. When this is taken into account, HBCUs actually churn out higher graduation rates for black students than their PWI peers do.
Even if most of the 381 students offered admissions to HBCUs don’t accept their letters, the message the day imparted on them will be clear, organizer Theresa Price noted: “I don’t want any kid to ever feel like they can never do anything or be anything.”