Students celebrate diversity through Historically Black Colleges


For most Marian girls, the thought of going to an HBCU after graduation doesn’t even cross their mind. In fact, out of the 261 responses to the Feb. Network survey, only 48 percent knew what an HBCU even was.

HBCU stands for historically black colleges and universities. The Higher Education Act of 1965 defines an HBCU as “…any historically black college or university that was established prior to 1964, whose principal mission was, and is, the education of black Americans…”

The concept of a predominantly black university started back in 1837. The first historically black university was founded as the African Institute in Cheyney, Pa. It was made possible by a man named Richard Humphreys who donated $10,000 to establish a school for African descendants.

Today it is known as the Cheyney University of Pennsylvania and has graduated more than 30,000 students of all different races.

Now, 180 years later, there are more than 100 HBCUs across the country. HBCUs have been responsible for providing education for thousands of college graduates, black and non-black. Senior Tylin Welch is one person who wishes to be a part of this rich, diverse community.

“I’m fascinated with historically black colleges and universities because I’ve grown up in predominantly white schools, and I feel like I need that experience of being around more people who look like me and share the same dreams that I do,” Welch said.

Senior Asia Rollins is another student who feels a desire to go to school with people who share the same background as her. Rollins was impressed by the strong amount of diversity at HBCUs. She went to a camp over the summer at Hampton University that hosted people everywhere from Jamaica to Latin America.

Welch applied to several different HBCUs including Hampton University in Hampton, Va. and Clark Atlanta University in Atlanta, Ga. Clark Atlanta has the strong film program that she’s looking for and also has joint classes with Morehouse and Spelman, two other HBCUs that will give her an opportunity to meet even more people she shares a similar heritage to.

Rollins applied to Howard University in Washington, D.C., as well as Hampton. Howard is ranked by U.S. World & News as the No. 2 HBCU and Hampton is ranked at No. 3.

Rollins said a big part of her decision to apply to Howard was because she had four family members graduate from there and lots of family in DC.

Aside from her family, Rollins also wants to go to an HBCU because she understands that they have a deeper cultural significance.

“They’re important because some institutions don’t have the same opportunities for black people as their peers, and that’s just kind of built-in at HBCUs,” Rollins said.

Screen Shot 2017-04-06 at 11.58.27 PMOutside of the African American community, it’s common for many people to assume that only people of color attend historically black college and universities, but Welch wants to combat that misconception directly.

“They’re not just for black people. They started as predominantly black and now they’re rich in diversity,” Welch said.

In fact, one-fourth of historically black colleges and universities have at least a 20 percent non-black student population.

“They’re not all party schools, either,” Rollins said. “Many people think they’re not up to par with other universities.”

The impact of HBCUs cannot go without notice. Currently, according to the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, HBCUs are responsible for 22 percent of bachelor’s degrees granted to African Americans, in addition to 12.5 percent of black CEOs, 40 percent of black engineers, 40 percent of black members in Congress, 50 percent of black lawyers and 80 percent of black judges.

It is this widespread impact among the African American community that’s the driving force behind Welch’s desire to attend an HBCU.

“I think it gives people of color a sense of self when they go these institutions,” Welch said.

That’s a world in which Welch and Rollins both wish to thrive in once their Marian education is complete.

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