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HBCUs Become Safe Haven for Students Uncertain of College Options After Affirmative Action ****

HBCUs Become Safe Haven for Students Uncertain of College Options After Affirmative Action ****
Posted By: Sofía Montiel on February 15, 2024

Historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) face a complicated situation after the Supreme Court barred affirmative action in college admissions, a ru|ing that left many applicants unclear about their chances as they seek higher education.

Advocates cast the ru|ing as a setback that will greatly impact minority students, causing them to seek institutions where they know their success will be welcomed and they don’t have to question how the school supports their education.

“Black students don’t feel wanted at these institutions because of the court decisions, and so that might mean that some of those students who would be applying to Harvard or UNC [the University of North Carolina], obviously the two that were in the case, they may apply to HBCUs and choose to go that way instead,” said Marybeth Gasman, executive director for Rutgers University’s Center for Minority Serving Institutions.

Despite Harvard and UNC’s fight to keep their previous admission policies, the Supreme Court struck down the use of race as a factor in June. However, the high court recently denied a case that would have taken away affirmative action at military academies.

Affirmative action was not used at all schools and was more commonly practiced at competitive universities. Even so, progressives erupted after the ru|ing, saying the court upended decades of efforts by colleges to make their campuses more diverse.

“As a Black woman who had the audacity to attend college, I am disgusted that our country just enshrined racial inequity in higher education and economic immobility into law,” said Rep. Summer Lee (D-Pa.) at the time.

Most universities that used affirmative action in their admissions process put out a statement after the court’s ru|ing saying they would comply with the decision while also keeping in mind their commitment to diversity.

Harvard said it “would certainly comply” with the ru|ing but that diversity is “essential to academic excellence,” and it said in order to “prepare leaders for a complex world, Harvard must admit and educate a student body whose members reflect, and have lived, multiple facets of human experience.”

Specifics on how they can balance the ru|ing with diversity commitments, however, have not been forthcoming, leading some minority students to have concerns about how such promises will be fulfilled.

But with HBCUs, experts say the students don’t have to question the commitment to their education.



“One thing to keep in mind is that Black students typically do not have to worry about whether or not they’re going to be welcome at HBCUs. By and large […] HBCUs have incredibly welcoming environments for Black students. And so, you know, that’s one thing you don’t have to contend with,” Gasman said.

While Agenia Clark, president of Fisk University, says she cannot directly attribute the rising interest in her institution to the court ru|ing, the school has seen a jump in applicants since June.

“This time last year, we had about 7,000-plus students expressing interest in Fisk for higher ed, and this year we have well over 9,000. Again, I can’t say that [ties] directly to the Supreme Court ru|ing in 2023, but we have seen an increase in interest,” she said.

A big reason Clark says students come to Fisk is because of the “sense of belonging” they can find.

“The reason students have said to me over and over and over again — and has been the legacy of this school — is that these students come here for a sense of belonging and to be a part of what they refer to as a family. This institution has a long history, more than 150 years, of creating a family environment for these students that come here,” Clark said.

The Biden administration has notably been working to give more support to HBCUs; it recently invested $93 million in grants to improve graduation rates for underserved students at HBCUs, tribally controlled colleges and universities, or TCCUs, and minority-serving institutions — MSIs.

“The Biden-Harris Administration recognizes the urgency of this moment in higher education and that creating opportunities for students of color and other underserved students to succeed in today’s most cutting-edge fields has never mattered more,” said Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona in December when the grants were announced.

Although the future for minority students in majority institutions can feel uncertain, experts hope these universities can work on making individuals feel included so they can apply anywhere with confidence.

“I am hoping that HBCUs continue to increase their enrollments and at the same time, I’m hoping that majority institutions find ways to maintain the impact [of] diversity on their campuses,” Gasman said.

“Prior to those lawsuits, we were getting closer to some racial equity at these institutions. And I hope that we don’t lose ground because I think that Black students deserve to be at any institution that they want to be. They deserve a chance at any institution,” she added.

SOURCE The Hill
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