April 15, 2016

Black college seeking non-black students

Stateline - Faced with stalled state funding, Harry Williams, the president of Delaware State University, a historically black public university, had to get creative: He slashed a quarter of the school’s academic programs and began aggressively recruiting students who aren’t black.

He’s gone as far as China to strike agreements with universities there that will bring Chinese exchange students to Delaware State to study.

“It’s a revenue generator for us and a way of marketing the university,” Williams said of the school’s international recruiting. “We’re definitely committed to our heritage and our history. But we had to make sure that we were relevant and have programs that would attract students.”

Delaware State isn’t the only of the public historically black colleges and universities to reach beyond a tradition of educating primarily African-American students as a way of making ends meet in a time of tight state budgets and changing racial and ethnic demographics.

Other state-supported HBCUs, such as Tennessee State University and North Carolina A&T, are recruiting white, Asian and Latino students, who comprise a growing share of their student bodies.

In all, a quarter of HBCUs have at least a 20 percent non-black student population, according to a 2015 report by the University of Pennsylvania.

Some alumni worry that increased racial diversity will change the nature and tradition of the schools. But college administrators such as Williams, whose student body is 68 percent black, said they have to do what it takes for the schools to survive.

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