Non-Black Students at HBCUs

I know that HBCUs accept non-black students and that there are some HBCUs where non-black students make up nearly half of the student population. My question is, what are today’s black students’ and families’ reactions to this occurring?

In reading about some of it occurring, there were those who felt that HBCUs were supposed to be a safe place from socially dominant stereotypes/views and that increasing numbers of non-black students (particularly of white students) felt invasive. Others didn’t care. Others saw it as a long overdue recognition of the quality of an HBCU education. Most of the articles I read, though, were written prior to 2020 and some of the conversations the U.S. has had about race since then.

Obviously no group (racial, socioeconomic, religious, etc.) is a monolith and people will have varying opinions. I’m just hoping to get a sense of how people are feeling on this issue now.

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@partyof5… Any opinion? I would be interested to hear.

I will share my own personal opinion on the subject as my family (2 kids currently attending HBCUs) and my oldest is about to be a 4th generation HBCU graduate in May. I did not see many non-black students (maybe 3-5 non-black students in my class) during my own HBCU matriculation in the mid-90’s, but my daughter’s HBCU has a lot more non-black students. I have always believed that students who attend a HBCU (but especially non-black students) get a “behind the scene look” at a special culture that gives insight into the “Black experience” in a safe space where being Black is celebrated. The non-black students that I know who have attended HBCUs for undergrad have been advocates for there institutions and have been great alumni who have made the world a better place.

I think back to going to the same chapel that MLK went to for Freshman Orientation, or my kids walking the same halls as alumni who are now giants in the world at large and have seen 1st hand how the education, history, and culture become a part of making men and women of service to our communities and the world. I want people of all races to see the value that I see in HBCUs and the easiest way to show that value is for non-blacks to attend HBCUs.


2 of my grandparents, my mother, father, step-father, both of my siblings and a host of relatives all went to HBCUs. Many then went to other HBCUs for graduate degrees. Most of the kids who went to college from my high school went to HBCUs. Back then it was almost a given that HBCUs would be strongly considered if not the defacto choice. I spent a childhood in HBCU culture.

I have to admit it’s strange to go to the local HBCU and see more than a quarter of the students be white and about one third overall to not be Black. Not strange in a bad sense, but strange like going to a music concert where the singer decides to give a 1-hour speech (that happened to me one time.)

I also have to admit I really respect the non-Blacks who attend HBCUs. As someone who attended a PWI and heard from many white students the disdain they had for HBCUs (and have the sentiment delivered with no shame or sense of irony) it makes me feel that while there are miles to go, we are making small advances every generation.

From the small scenes I’ve seen of the increasing non-Black enrollment, I don’t think it’s strongly diminishing the safe-space aspect of HBCUs. Then again, I have not yet been on an HBCU campus where Blacks are the minority of students. And I have heard others my age and younger who spend more time on campuses than I do say they feel a sense of safe-space is being diminished. Not a majority express that opinion, but a good amount feel that way. Maintaining that cultural safe-space has to be a priority until full equity is achieved at most PWIs.

I think at least one of my children will attend an HBCU. It would be nice to continue the tradition for at least one more generation. At least half of my Black friends have children who attended HBCUs. I’ve spent so much time on HBCU campuses, I hope I get a reason to experience Parent’s Day at one.

After decades of deliberate underfunding, the HBCUs that are part of the UNC-system of public universities finally achieved a small portion of equity after the turn of the century. Those funds are finally finding their way to significant facilities improvements on campuses.

I’m sure the shiny new buildings have a lot to do with more non-Blacks choosing to attend NC public HBCUs these days. Some of the private HBCUs haven’t seen the rapid rise of non-Black enrollment that some of the public HBCUs have experienced. And some private prestigious HBCUs like Hampton remain 95%+ African-American.

I guess a small part of me is sad to see some public HBCUs become much more diverse at a must faster rate than public institutions like UNC and NCSU. And I guess that says a lot about the truth of the matter - but I won’t go further than that musing for now.