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The HBCU: Dumping Ground for Low-achievers?


The concept of writing this article came to me after hearing a disturbing conversation amongst fellow co-workers. A mother was bragging to another young lady concerning her son’s high score on the ACT and the fact he is only in the seventh grade. While I enjoy listening to parents brag about their children, as I believe our children’s accomplishments should be celebrated, it was her next statement which followed which disturbed me. She commented how he could attend any HBCU right now with his test score as she chuckled away in humor. Now, I understand this might not seem alarming to many, but it is very alarming to me. Is this the reputation our HBCUs now hold? While her son’s score was very high for a seventh grader, his score would not impress college admissions departments if he were a high school senior. So, I ask again… is this what our HBCUs have become known for; this perception that you don’t have to have good grades and good ACT or SAT scores to gain entrance.

As African-American students continue to flock to PWIs, for reasons such as diverse campuses, funding levels for the institutions, and reputations, our HBCUs are being left out in the cold. However, these institutions still have standards, just as any other college or university. We must not forget HBCUs also have to abide by accreditation and we must not overlook the population of students admitted to PWIs with average or below average ACT and SAT scores admitted with special programming or conditional admittance.

For the past few years there’s been the unsettling rumor, with some truth to it, that HBCUs are in trouble financially. This drive and need for funding from wherever possible also gives false implications as these institutions are less competitive academically. In addition, we mustn’t overlook the statistics in terms of retention, graduation, and break down by major and degree classification between HBCUs and PWIs. I think some would find this information shocking to see how competitive the HBCU is. As Freeman states, one of the main characteristics students choose to attend an HBCU is lower tuition costs, therefore, attracting high-achieving students, (Freeman, 2002). So, before assuming an HBCU will accept your child, friend, or whomever… do some research. They have high standards as well.