Historically Black Colleges Becoming More Diverse

By CityTownInfo.com Staff
October 1, 2009

Historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) are becoming an attractive option for non-black minority and white students.

The Houston Chronicle reports that while most of the schools are still predominantly African-American, the number of Hispanic and Asian students is rising. At the historically black Texas Southern University's law school, for example, only about 54 percent of the students are black. TSM has earned the distinction of being named the most diverse in the country by U.S. News & World Report.

"I wanted to go somewhere that would help me understand the background of folks--racial, ethnic, socioeconomic," said Jorge Lopez, 24 who enrolled at TSU's law school. "It's important to know who your clients will be."

Miles Stiles, a white student who attends TSU, decided to enroll for practical reasons. "It was close," he said. "It was inexpensive." Race, he noted, "wasn't an issue for me."

The Chronicle of Higher Education reports that according to a study by the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, public HBCUs have become increasingly diverse over two decades: The total number of non-black students of color increased by 64 percent, and the proportion of Hispanic, Asian, and multi-ethnic institutions rose from 6 percent in 1986 to 8 percent in 2006.

"Diversity matters to HBCU's," explained Olivia M. Blackmon, a strategic research analyst for the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, who was quoted in the Chronicle of Higher Education.

Dwayne Ashley, president and chief executive of the fund, noted that the increase is not the result of a push to diversify the colleges. Rather, he said, the goal "is to enroll students who want to get a great education." He pointed out that HBCU's are "accessible and affordable" for first-generation college students.

Not everyone is happy about the shift to be more diverse. Texas' Prairie View A & M University President George Wright met with resistance from some when he pushed to increase non-black enrollment in 2003.

Nevertheless, he persisted. "Because we are a group of people who were once denied access, we should be especially sensitive to other minorities," he told the Houston Chronicle. "If there are people who need a second chance, there is Prairie View."

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