Our HBCUs are in danger. In recent years, many historically black institutions have dealt with issues keeping their enrollments predominantly black, as issues with finances and status continue to build. According to the U.S. Department of Education, there are currently 101 historically black colleges in the United States serving more than 228,000 students. Between 2018-2019, HBCUs had the second-lowest enrollment in 17 years.
“It was a melting pot of high intelligence and backgrounds,” said Darrell Dial, a molecular genomics scientist to NBC News about his experience at South Carolina State University‚ which he entered in 1987. “This black diversity made a great playground for great debate and banter. It was truly iron sharpening iron for us all. I wouldn’t be the man I am if it weren’t for South Carolina State.”
According to the National Center for Educational Statistics, more than 6,000 fewer students attended the 101 black colleges and universities in the U.S. during the 2018-19 school year. The 291,767 total was down from the 298,134 in the previous year and was the lowest total since 2001 when there were 289,985 students at historically black colleges.
The legacy of HBCUs came at a time where African Americans were not allowed into mainstream colleges due to discrimination and Jim Crow laws. Cheyney University, founded in 1837 as Cheyney State College, was the first historically black college. Today, it is in danger of shutting its doors forever in financial ruin having lost 38% of its student body in 2018. Enrollment at Bethune-Cookman College in Daytona Beach, Florida, dropped 20%. University President Brent Chrite sent a letter to alumni on Jan. 27 that told of its precarious situation.
“2020 will be a pivotal year in history of B-CU,” Chrite wrote. “It will be the year our beloved university prepared to close its doors, or it will be the year we turned a corner and began moving toward an exciting future.”