“The percentage of Black students enrolled at HBCUs fell from 18 percent in 1976 to 8 percent in 2014 and then increased to 9 percent in 2020,” the National Center for Education Statistics reports.
The number of applications for HBCUs like Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia, has increased. Data USA reports Morehouse’s number grew by over 60% in 2020. However, some Black students and their families see a safer learning environment in these institutions.
Sherrille McKethan-Green, whose son Gideon Green attends Morehouse, NPR reports.
“I felt that after he graduated from college, he would have time to be a minority,” McKethan-Green said. “But at Morehouse, he would be a majority.”
For McKethan-Green, her son attending Morehouse is the culmination of a yearslong dream.
“I got [him] a sweatshirt made that says ‘Future Morehouse College Graduate’ at the age of 3,” McKethan-Green told NPR. “He needed to be around people … that had his best interest at heart and would also tell him that ‘You’re going to be great. You’re going to be a success.'”
McKethan-Green shared that her son chose to apply only to HBCUs, so she was thrilled when Morehouse accepted him.
Paulina Webber, an incoming senior at Dillard University, said that she noticed an increase in Black students applying to HBCUs after the rise of the Black Live Matter movement.
“We saw the height of the Black Lives Matter movement,” Webber said. “And then we saw students say, ‘Hey, I want to go to a Black school. I want to be safe. I want to enjoy my time.'”
According to Webber, students who graduate from HBCUs better understand the world because of shared experiences as Black people.
Before the Civil War, the first HBCU, Cheyney University of Pennsylvania, was established in 1837, giving Black Americans access to higher education.
Originally called the African Institute, the school was soon renamed the Institute for Colored Youth. The Institute moved to George Cheyney’s 275-acre farm in 1902, just 25 miles west of Philadelphia.
Cheney became associated with the school in 1913, though its official name changed several times during the 20th century.