Walter M. Kimbrough, president of the historically black Dillard University in New Orleans, told the Washington Post, "Simply put, as we see young black people chant 'Black Lives Matter' in the streets, their actions clearly indicate that black colleges matter as well."
According to The Washington Post, HBCUs like Claflin University in South Carolina and Harris-Stowe State University in St. Louis—just miles from where Michael Brown was killed in Ferguson—are welcoming record-sized freshmen classes this year. Enrollment has also jumped at Shaw University (49 percent), South Carolina State (39 percent), Tuskegee University (32 percent), Virginia State University (30 percent), Philander Smith College (29 percent), Dillard University (22 percent), Central State University (22 percent), Florida Memorial University (20 percent) and Delaware State University (19 percent).
This comes after nearly 38 percent of HBCUs reported a 10 percent increase in enrollment between 2013 and 2014, according to the National Center for Educational Statistics.
The surge comes after protests at predominantly white institutions (PWIs) around the country demanded more black students, faculty, and staff; name changes for buildings named after racists; mandatory diversity training; and the creation of safe spaces for students. By December 2015, student protesters at 80 colleges and universities had issued written or verbal demands.
Some progress has been made, with universities putting together task forces, creating new initiatives, and hiring more diversity officers.
However, Kimbrough argued that, while PWIs absolutely need to be more inclusive and diverse, "students of color must have reasonable expectations." For example, "Demanding a school in a rural town of a homogeneous state to have large numbers of black faculty and staff will never happen."
For black students, Kimbrough wrote, HBCUs "serve as the original safe spaces."
According to a recent survey by Inside Higher Ed and Gallup, "While 84 percent of university leaders believe race relations on their own campuses are either 'excellent' or 'good,' less than 25 percent thought so about race relations on other campuses in 2015-16."
While minority institutions make up only 3 percent of all colleges and universities, 11 percent of African-American students are enrolled in HBCUs, according to the Center for Minority Serving Institutions at Penn.
In addition to the obvious benefits of higher HBCU enrollment, the increase could help HBCUs stay afloat. In recent years, HBCUs have struggled financially, with some on the verge of collapse. Higher enrollment could help HBCUs keep their bond rating, keep their staff, and keep their accreditation status.