ATLANTA – One of the few black kids in her elementary school in Waterford, Connecticut, Alversia Wade remembers being asked in fourth grade by white classmates if she liked watermelon and fried chicken.
So when it came time to choose a college, she decided to go to a campus where, as she put it, “I would not have to explain myself.” She decided on Spelman College, where she’s now a freshman, and became part of a wave of black students choosing predominantly black universities over others, at a time of racial division and violence.
Louisiana’s Dillard University has seen a 17 percent increase from last year’s total.
Related: Black colleges face uphill battle to survive The numbers are a welcome boost for HBCUs, many of which have struggled financially and otherwise in recent years.
Gasman said she is hearing more than ever before from parents who “don’t want [their children] to deal with what they’re seeing in other places.” Black students, she said, “are feeling they need a place to go that has them in mind.” Such calls and emails from parents usually increase after police shootings, she said.They “have a heightened sense of awareness regarding the social and political conversations that have exploded in the last several years,” and are “coming of age at a time when they’re compelled to speak up.” Analysts also point to efforts by the schools themselves.HBCUs have been trying new approaches to recruiting and admissions.(Of those, Hayes said, 2,807 were admitted and 532 enrolled.) Dozens of other HBCUs are also seeing increased interest from black students.Although many schools are still crunching the numbers, about a third of all HBCUs have seen spikes in freshmen enrollment this year, said Marybeth Gasman, higher education professor at the University of Pennsylvania and director of the Penn Center for Minority Serving Institutions Several observers, including Gasman, primarily attribute the surge in interest to racial tensions on and off college campuses — the “push” of which Wade spoke.