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As more attention is drawn to rising tuition and student debt, these schools may become more appealing, said Melissa Wooten, sociology professor at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and author of “In the Face of Inequality: How Black Colleges Adapt.” Wooten also pointed to what she called a “resurgence of HBCUs in the public conversation,” driven by everything from a Twitter trend last year #If Hogwarts Was An HBCU (referring to the Harry Potter school), to “Think HBCU,” a promotional campaign launched this year by Alpha Kappa Alpha, a sorority with 65,000 active members.A Gallup poll released last year of black graduates of HBCUs and other colleges also sparked conversation, noted Robert Palmer, a professor in the department of educational leadership and policy studies at Howard University.Hayes, Spelman’s vice president for enrollment management.
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Related: Black colleges face uphill battle to survive The numbers are a welcome boost for HBCUs, many of which have struggled financially and otherwise in recent years.
Most of the first HBCUs were founded during Reconstruction so that freed slaves could obtain a higher education; the schools have produced such noteworthy graduates as Martin Luther King Jr. But although HBCUs drew 80 percent of all black college-goers four decades ago, that number had been hovering at just over 10 percent, according to a 2013 report by Gasman.
So when it came time to choose a college, she decided to go to a campus where, as she put it, “I would not have to explain myself.” She decided on Spelman College, where she’s now a freshman, and became part of a wave of black students choosing predominantly black universities over others, at a time of racial division and violence.
“Everything happening with police brutality and Black Lives Matter,” Wade said, “pushed me to want an environment where I could talk to other students about all these things.” Wade was one of 7,868 applicants to the Atlanta college this fall, a record for the 135-year-old institution, said Ingrid W.