Delaware State University – the state’s only historically black school – has for its nearly 125 years reflected the nation’s racial evolution. Recently, that has meant having a diverse student body.
Originally created as a separate institution for the education of blacks, the university now educates about 4,000 students a year, 11 percent of whom are white.
That percentage is just about average for the 105 institutions classified as historically black colleges and universities, or HBCUs, across the country, according to Marybeth Gasman, the director of the Center for Minority Serving Institutions at the University of Pennsylvania.
Over the last 20 years, white enrollment at HBCUs has been between 10 and 13 percent, according to figures that Gasman studied in a recent report.
That’s actually a decline for some HBCU’s, including DSU, where the white enrollment was as high as 41 percent in 1987, the first year that the National Center for Education Statistics began collecting data.
Almost 20 years before that, in 1970, Veronica Ernst started her freshman year at DSU and said that most of her classes were about half and half.
“I was there during the revolution,” Ernst said, fist raised in the air as she hurried to a faculty meeting on DSU’s campus last week. Like most of the white students who made up nearly half of the student population in the 1970s and 80s, Ernst commuted to campus.
“I could ride my bike there,” she said. Ernst now teaches in the biology department at the school.
HBCUs have always “been open, they’ve always been inclusive,” said Andrew Arroyo, a professor who studies HBCUs at Norfolk State University, a historically black college in Virginia’s state school system. read more