HBCU vs. PWI: A College Choice

Some students at CHS do not know what HBCUs are, and according to a survey conducted by the JagWire, those who know of these colleges have not considered attending one.

An HBCU is a historically black college or university created for African Americans to go to college after being deprived of education in America for hundreds of years. The first HBCU, Cheyney University, was founded in 1873, according to the web- site HBCU Lifestyle. After centuries of systemic oppression, black people now had a place to get higher education and better support  their homes by getting well-paying jobs.

Before 1873, America only had predominantly white institutions (PWIs) such as Wake Forest, UNC and Harvard.

“Historically Black Colleges and Universities are institutions of higher education in the United States that were established before 1964 with the  intention of serving the African American Community. These institutions have allowed African Americans to have an opportunity to become successful, productive citizens,” says website HBCU Connect. “They have disproved old stereotypes that stated that Blacks were ignorant or unable to learn and achieve as whites have.”

Contrary to popular belief, non-black students can and do attend HBCUs. In 2015, non-Black students made up 22 percent of students who attended HBCUs nationwide (NCES).

There are some teachers and staff at CHS who went to HBCUs. Rolesha Harris, CHCCS Speech Pathologist, went to North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University in Greensboro; for her Masters, she went to Central in Durham.

“I went to a predominantly white high school in Durham––all of my schooling was predominantly white from kindergarten all the way up through high school. I was determined to do something totally different, so I only wanted to go to an HBCU; I didn’t want to go anywhere  else,” said Harris.

Harris expressed that every student is different and should choose the best college for them.

“I think it really depends on the student. I feel like if you have an experience where you are a minority in the school, I think you do need to experience being in a majority or being in a setting with other people like you,” said Harris. “Even if you
don’t like it… see if you like it because it’s totally different when the culture is more of what you’re familiar with.”

According to Harris, everyone’s background is different, and some students might choose not to attend an HBCU.

“My daughter went to a predominantly black high school in Durham so she decided to go to a PWI,” said Harris. “Her high school experience was totally different than mine, so because of that, she kind of flip-flopped.”

English teacher Mintzy Paige agreed that HBCUs would be a great choice for many students at CHS. Paige went to North Carolina Central University, and chose an HBCU because she had previously went to predominantly white high schools. She wanted to know the experience of being a majority.

“I think HBCUs are important because they help students of color continue to have a place that they can
call their home. It allows them to feel safe and comfortable in their own skin,” said Paige. “They can give that home feeling that students of colors sometimes miss.”

“I recommend all students go to HBCUs. It doesn’t matter their color––I actually just had a conversation with some of my white AVID students about going to an HBCU… I think the experience would be good for any student,” said Paige.

Both Harris and Paige agree that students tend to overlook HBCUs despite the colleges’ abilities to provide great opportunities for success.

“It depends on the student, and where you feel more comfortable and where you will be the most successful,” said Harris.

Illustration by Nina Scott-Farquharson