Perilous Times for Black Colleges

Ernie Suggs and Eric Stirgus, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, February 1, 2018


Amelia Smith’s good fortune is Spelman College’s loss. She is a talented and highly coveted black student who had her pick of any college she could get into and afford. But that hard-won freedom comes at a price for historically black colleges and universities. Predominantly white schools are picking off some of black colleges’ best prospects. Fifty years ago, 90 percent of all black college students went to black colleges. Today, 90 percent of black students are at mostly white schools.

Spelman is one of the richest and most highly regarded of the 101 accredited HBCUs. As are Howard University in Washington and Morehouse College in Atlanta. They are not in danger because of choices like the one Smith made. But many HBCUs are.


Tiny Paine College in Augusta has lost 46 percent of its enrollment since 2010, and two-thirds of Paine’s freshman class in 2015 didn’t come back for sophomore year. Meanwhile, the oldest HBCU in America, Cheyney University of Pennsylvania, lost 55 percent of its enrollment during that period. Its six-year graduation rate in 2015? Seventeen percent. At South Carolina State University, enrollment declined 30 percent and core revenue 27 percent.

Colleges can’t sustain those kinds of numbers for long — evident in the fact that at least six HBCUs have closed since 1988 and at least two (including one in Atlanta) are now colleges in name only.


Taylor believes as many as one-quarter of HBCUs will not survive the next two decades.


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