Black On Campus
Higher Education and the African American Experience

White at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs)

June 3rd, 2007 by Ajuan Mance

[Morehouse is a] “refuge from the rest of the world where what race you are doesn’t really matter.”

–Steven Schukei, one of a small number of white almuni of this historically Black men’s college

While the media follows the struggles of majority white colleges and university systems to recruit and retain African American students, the success of HBCUs in retaining, welcoming, and supporting the number of white students who attend rarely makes the news.

That is why the May 29th AP article “White Students Being Recruited at Black Colleges” by Katrina Goggins is so refreshing. In it Goggins provides an overview of the current state of white recuritment, admissions, and enrollment at Black colleges. “In the 2005-06 school year, nearly 10 percent of [HBCU] students were white, according to her association’s data,” an impressive figure given the challenge of competing with nearly 30 times the number of majority-white colleges, many of whom have higher budgets and greater name recognition.

Part of Black colleges’ success in drawing more white students can be attributed to significant increases in their efforts to recruit non-Black undergrads, including scholarship and minority affairs offices aimed at addressing the needs of whites and other non-African Americans on campus.

Public HBCUs began actively recruiting white students in the 1980s and 1990s, a period when those public institutions with race- and gender-based missions originally crafted to serve the interests of marginalized groups (people of color and women) were forced to integrate (VMI, the Citadel, Texas Women’s University, and various HBCUs).

According to Goggins, “White students say they’ve taken valuable experiences from their time at black colleges. Skin color, the students say, is much more of a factor away from the campuses than it is on them.” Michael Roberts, an white undergraduate at South Carolina’s Benedict College echoes this sentiment, explaining that “[at Benedict] you should get to know people based on who they are,” Roberts said. “You can’t judge a book by its cover.”

This capacity to see race, but to experience people as more than just their ethnicity is becoming an increasingly necessary skill for white students. Lezli Baskerville, the president and CEO of the National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education believes that white students who choose to attend HBCUs are preparing themselves for

“[an] increasingly Brown and Black world.  If you want to know how to live in one, you can’t grow up in an all-white neighborhood, go to a predominantly white school, white cultural and social events, go to a predominantly white university and then thrive in a world that is today more black, more brown than before.”

In the coming years I expect to see more white students attending HBCUs, as popular culture phenomena ranging from the televising of Black college football games to films like Drumline and Stomp the Yard to HBCU-based reality shows combine with increasing reports of the browning of America to make it increasingly clear that white students who have isolated themselves in all white schools located in all white communities are truly being left behind as the nation races ahead into a truly multicultural future.

Read Katrina A. Goggins’s AP report at:

Posted by Ajuan Mance

Posted in African Americans, Benedict College, Black Colleges, HBCUs, Higher Education, Morehouse College, My Favorite Blogs, white students

4 Responses

  1. A.Z.

    A) it’s bad that there are colleges considered “black colleges” and that’s ok, but if there were “white colleges” that would be racist.

    B) i don’t believe there will be more white students in “black colleges” because of pop culture or more importantly because of movies like ‘Drumline.’ While the movie was an accurate depiction of show style marching bands, the style majority of “black colleges” and black drummers, it is not the majority of drumming or band style for “white” drumming or high school/college bands.

    a large part of high school and college bands and percussion sections are influenced by the drum corps (not bands) of DCI and DCA. the style is more precise, less showy, but more technical.

    just as blacks accuse whites of depicting them in a stereotypical manner in the media whites also accuse blacks. the media through BET and other outlets don’t portray whites in an honest fashion, so if a person is to be pursuaded by pop culture they would get the feeling that they would be the sole “nerdy white kid” or the token or odd man out in a situation where it should be about the music, not drawing more attention to something that should be ignored, the color of your skin.

  2. Candi

    Colleges are “white” that’s why “black” colleges were created. Duh!

  3. joseph plantier

    wow a.z. that is such an ignorant statement, but thats okay, i guess you’re ignorant to the injustice that blacks suffered here in the united states. These schools had to be created due to a little thing called segregation. Then these schools simply maintain their historical status. you’re probably never going to read this because its old, but its whatever. just don’t make such stupid statements in public… you’re embarrassing me.

    -slightly aggravated white guy-

  4. Jasmine

    A.Z. I am not going to say you are ignorant, rather just unaware. Majority institutions such as UCLA or Tennessee, or Texas are known as PWI or predominantly WHITE institutions, just as a Howard, Grambling, or Texas Southern are refered to as Historically Black Colleges. They are designated as such because they were founded for the purpose of educating Blacks, just as Americas colleges were founded ORIGINALLY to only educate individuals of European descent, or as my grandmother would say, “White folks”. There are PBIs, or Predominantly Black schools, such as Tennesse State, that were not founded to with the purpose of educating only Blacks, but that is the majority population that has chosen to attend that institution. Hope this opened your eyes to why these designations exist from the US Department of Education.

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