Black people are disproportionately poorer than non-blacks, which means students at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) are poorer than their non-black counterparts. This poses quite an obstacle to administrators at cash-strapped HBCUs.
There is also another a lesser known problem facing HBCUs: Competition. White colleges and universities are aggressively recruiting black students. For example, white schools like Georgia State University have expanded to include even more black students. At present, the percentage of black students at Georgia State University is 41 percent.
To make up for these shortfalls, HBCUs say they have no choice but to recruit white students, according to Pew Charitable Trusts.
Harry Williams, the president of Delaware State University, a historically black public university, explained that he’s been left with no choice but to get creative.
“It’s a revenue generator for us and a way of marketing the university,” said Williams, who has secured arrangements to receive Chinese students as part of an exchange program. “We’re definitely committed to our heritage and our history. But we had to make sure that we were relevant and have programs that would attract students.”
Tennessee State University and North Carolina A&T are recruiting white, Asian and Latino students to make up for the shortfall.
As Pew explained, serving poor students is a financial burden for schools:
Public HBCUs are perennially cash-strapped and have lower graduation rates. They don’t have the luxury of large endowments enjoyed by some major state universities like the $10 billion at the University of Michigan, academic analysts say. Part of their mission is to serve low-income students. And state budget crunches can imperil their future.
In Louisiana, where the state is facing a $747 million budget shortfall, Southern University System earlier this year warned that it could no longer operate if budget cuts were too deep. (The school later stressed that it would be able to stay open but not without severe cuts to staff and course offerings.) In Illinois, which hasn’t had a state budget for 10 months, Chicago State University faces the prospect of closing its doors.
“If the majority institutions are intentionally recruiting African-American students, they are now your competition,” said Johnny Taylor, president and CEO of the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, which represents HBCUs. “Frankly, you can try to out-recruit them by recruiting African-American students. Or you can target the students they normally target: white, Hispanic and Asian.”