Enrollment of white students on rise at historically black colleges
BLUEFIELD, West Virginia (CNN) -- Nestled in the mountains of West Virginia
is Bluefield State College, a historically black college created at the end of the
19th century to educate teachers.
What's striking is, of the 2,400 students here, African-Americans are a small
"As far as knowing that it's a black college, you wouldn't ...," said Derrick
Younger, a junior at the school. "You wouldn't notice that because it's
Freshman Barbara Lewis said, "It's kind of weird,
for lack of a better word, because you would think
there would tend to be more blacks."
Of the nation's 105 historically black colleges and universities, Bluefield State has
the largest white enrollment. Whites make up 91 percent of the students and 96
percent of the faculty.
College President Robert Moore says, "The
problem that we find ourselves in now -- and
we've been in this situation for some 35 years --
(is) that the black ... student population has declined to the point that it's quite
difficult to attract others to come to this institution."
Moore is white. The school last had an African-American president
'Competition for students is horrendous'
Bluefield State is not alone. Two other historically black schools are now
majority white. West Virginia State College is 87 percent white, and Lincoln
University in Missouri is 67 percent white. Others are creeping up; Kentucky
State University is 42 percent white.
While historically black colleges make up only 3 percent of the colleges and
universities in the United States, they award 27 percent of the bachelor's degrees
earned by black students nationwide.
And most of the nation's historically black colleges have maintained a large
African-American enrollment. At Howard University in Washington, 86 percent
of the students are black. But nationally, white enrollment at black colleges has
climbed about 30 percent in the past two decades.
The reasons? White students have realized that historically black colleges can
cost half as much as other schools, and declining black student enrollment has
forced many black colleges to recruit students of all races.
"The competition for students is horrendous," says Henry Ponder of the National
Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education. "Everyone wants good
Regional demographics play a role
Regional demographics have also played a role in the changes at Bluefield State.
The African-American population in the two surrounding counties has dropped
more than 50 percent in the past half century. African-Americans make up just 3
percent of West Virginia's population.
But even with so few blacks on campus, Moore says the school's mission is the
same as it was 100 years ago. "It was founded to afford people to get an
education. That philosophy still exists."
Still, there's a feeling something has been lost. Roderick Neal, one of the school's
three black teachers, said, "A lot of students are familiar with the history of the
historically black college." But do they appreciate that history? "I personally don't
feel that they do," he said.
Keeping that history alive is important to Robin Davis, the president of the only
black sorority at Bluefield State. Once a popular group on campus, it now has
only four members.
"Maybe we could increase our numbers if there were more blacks," she said. "I
think it's important that we continue that tradition; don't let it die down."
Bluefield State College
West Virginia State College
Kentucky State University
Howard University College of Medicine
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