Every year college students enter the hallowed halls of HBCUs throughout the country. The end of summer brings together eager scholars focused on completing their post-secondary education and developing new relationships. New entrants transition to institutions with a distinguished history of supporting students from a variety of socio-economic backgrounds.
First generation students receive academic, emotional and social scaffolding to prepare for the rigors of college. Administrators, alumni, faculty, staff and students pass along traditions that shape the unique identity of HBCUs. The warm embrace from members of the university family sustains students during turbulent times.
Despite a plethora of economic barriers, HBCUs enroll and educate more Black students from underserved backgrounds in comparison to other post-secondary institutions. Moreover, they consistently seek to give second chances to students’ at the margins of society. Without HBCUs firm guidance thousands of students would face a cloudy future.
The closing of institutions including St. Paul’s College and financial problems of South Carolina State have led some policymakers to question HBCUs relevancy. However, HBCUs are increasingly important considering public schools educate predominantly minority, under-served students. Fortunately HBCUs are committed to increasing the six-year graduation rate of Black students through initiatives designed to combat environmental stressors including familial and peer relationships.
After more than one hundred and fifty years of service to the Black community, HBCUs continue to be a critical link between high school and college. HBCUs are a vital organ at the center of a vast higher education system. Students new to the HBCU experience can expect several benefits including:
1. Student’s benefit from intimate settings
Although HBCUs vary in size most institutions offer small classes and low student to teacher ratios. Small classes are ideal for students seeking strong mentee/mentor relationships. Frequently students unaccustomed to large settings struggle to acclimate to classes filled with dozens of students. Additional support from faculty members can make a big difference in the lives of new entrants.
2. More than a number
Because of the small size HBCU administrators, faculty and staff members can remember student names, majors and interests. Students struggling to adapt to a new city, state can talk to members of the university family who will offer support until they graduate.
3. You are a member of a community
The sense of communalism is a critical part of the HBCU experience. Faculty members and fellow students lead discussions, rallies and protests to address national or international issues. After graduation students receive a warm welcome during convocation, homecoming, graduation, etc.
4. Challenging academic environment
HBCUs ensure students have the opportunity to deconstruct important historical and contemporary issues while taking difficult courses. Several HBCUs including Howard University and Xavier University produce students that attend medical school after graduation.
5. Memorable social experiences
New students are introduced to halftime shows during football season without comparison. Bands from rival colleges battle to determine, which HBCU has bragging rights for another year. Homecoming, step shows and probates provide lasting memories. Walking the yard with friends during a cool spring afternoon as members of the Divine Nine stroll to the most recent radio hit creates unforgettable moments.
6. Lasting friendships
Students benefit from attending classes with individuals with similar lived experiences. Roommates and close friends spend hours discussing the most recent social issue. After graduation alumni continue to stay connected through social media and/or joining a regional alumni association.
7. Creating a legacy
The small environment allows students with no interest in economic or political issues to blossom into locally, nationally and internationally recognized experts. Students organize fundraisers, protests and programs that members of the university community remember for several years.
8. Learning about the Black diaspora
HBCUs excel at educating students on the contributions of Black intellectuals in the United States, Europe, Caribbean and Africa. Students develop a global perspective by analyzing how groups are interconnected. Conventional beliefs are analyzed and challenged in classrooms, dorm rooms and various open spaces.
9. Strong alumni networks
After graduation students stay connected with fellow alumni through fundraisers, homecoming, social media groups and various professional organizations.
10. Recognizing your worth
Administrators and faculty members value your accomplishments. Students are not forced to explain how specific events, proposals could impact their emotional, physical or psychological well-being.
Recently HBCUs including Morehouse College welcomed their largest freshman class in the institutions distinguished history. The success of Morehouse highlights the important role HBCUs continue to play in the lives of aspiring leaders. Although some of the experiences highlighted in the article are not exclusive to HBCUs they provide inclusive environments that excel at producing change agents. Continuing to protect their legacy is linked to the nation’s economic growth. Ignoring their success would have a negative impact on thousands of students with unlimited potential.