by Stacy M. Brown/NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent
Howard University enjoyed a more than 15 percent enrollment increase during the pandemic, and officials at the historically Black college expect those numbers to increase this fall.
“This has the potential to be our largest freshman class ever,” Anthony Wutoh, Howard’s Provost and chief academic officer, told reporters.
Up north from D.C., Bowie State reportedly expects an 8 percent increase in overall enrollment this fall.
The increase in enrollment at Howard and Bowie State reflects what’s happening at historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) around the country.
Some observers believe the calls for racial justice after the murder of George Floyd and the global awareness of the Black Lives Matter movement have contributed mightily to the rise in enrollment at HBCUs.
“We are attracting students who have a significant interest in social justice and an interest in addressing what they see as the ills of society,” Wutoh told NBC News.
At Morgan State University in Baltimore, two gifts from philanthropists MacKenzie Scott and Calvin and Tina Tyler totaling $60 million have assisted.
The Biden-Harris administration eliminated millions of dollars in debt through the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act.
In May, university officials noted they had received 14,600 undergraduate applications for 2021-22, shattering 2019 totals by more than 58 percent, reported universitybusiness.com.
Morgan State also pulled in 1,200 housing applications, up more than 50 percent from 2019.
“We have faced challenges during the pandemic and have seen some of our natural growth stifled as a result. However, what these record numbers of applications are revealing is that educational attainment is still very important to a great number of people and that there is a tremendous appetite to receive that education at Morgan,” university President David Wilson told universitybusiness.com.
“What we’ve put in place here at the university, in terms of programs and opportunities, is unique and attractive to both traditional and nontraditional students. We look forward to capitalizing on this monumental interest and building for the future.”
Vice President Kamala Harris, actors Samuel L. Jackson and the late Chadwick Boseman, are among the many famous individuals who graduated from an HBCU.
And while it might seem exciting to have a list of celebrities and VIPs counted among HBCU grads, the reality is that HBCUs have a deep and rich history of educating free Blacks and former slaves and in doing so have made an indelible mark on this nation that extend far beyond any one person or recent history. HBCUs were educating and graduating Black students when few other schools would. They are responsible for the creation of the Black middle class and have helped create stable, strong communities since 1837, when the first HBCU was founded.
According to the Rutgers Center for Minority Serving Institutions, approximately one-third of HBCUs have experienced record increases in applications and enrollment.
“Our enrollment continues to rise and increase year over year,” Bowie State President Aminta Breaux said. “I don’t think there’s just one spark. I do think it’s a culmination.”