WASHINGTON — College presidents and admission experts are expecting a significant increase in applications at historically Black colleges and universities following this summer's Supreme Court decision outlawing race-based affirmative action policies.
At a time of heightened social divisions with race relations at the forefront, school administrators say the conservative majority court's ruling opens a door for HBCUs to fill a gap for students and their families seeking an educational experience in which Black identity and culture are celebrated.
"We are anticipating that over the next three years, we will likely see an increase in our applications, somewhere between 50 [%] and 100% as a direct consequence of this decision," said David Anthony Thomas, president of 156-year-old Morehouse College, a men's only HBCU in Atlanta whose alumni include Martin Luther King Jr.
Thomas said the institution has already seen an uptick in applications in recent years following protests in response to the May 2020 murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer. According to data Morehouse shared with The Times, the school received about 2,300 applicants for its incoming class in 2018, a number that grew to 3,200 applicants in the cycle immediately after the protests. For its current freshman class, Morehouse received 5,200 applications, a 122% increase compared to 2018.
At Howard University in Washington, D.C., applications have grown from about 11,600 in 2013 to more than 32,000 in 2023, a 175% increase, according to data shared with The Times and statements from school officials. Undergraduate enrollment increased from 6,500 in 2019 to almost 10,000 in 2023.
Melanie Carter, associate provost and director of the Center for HBCU Research, Leadership, and Policy at Howard University, said that following the Supreme Court decision on affirmative action, she expects that not only will applications increase, but that more high-achieving students will apply.
"I think we will see an increased number of students, particularly those students who are in the top percentages of their graduating classes who will opt for HBCUs," Carter said. "I think that population will [apply], I think they've had enough of this questioning of their competitiveness and their qualifications for entry."
At co-ed Clark Atlanta University, another HBCU, President George T. French Jr. echoed Carter's assessment. The school received 31,000 applications for Fall 2023 and had places for about 1,200 students in the incoming class.
"I told them to shut down the [application] portal. It was just too many to consider," French told The Times. He expects that in the upcoming cycle, the first since the court's decision, they could receive 50,000 applications.
French said the kind of student applying to study at Clark is also changing.
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