Plight of America's Black Colleges

January 23, 1981

Report Outline
New Struggle for Survival
Evolution of Black Colleges
Closing the ‘Education Gap’
Special Focus

New Struggle for Survival

Shifting Pattern of Student Enrollment

To some of those present, the scene must have brought back memories of days gone by, of civil rights marches and fiery rhetoric, of blacks bringing their message to the nation's capital. But times have changed. The thousands of protesters who demonstrated at Black College Day in Washington last September were there not to denounce segregation but rather in a sense to demand it. The issue was preserving historically black schools, whose existence many believe is threatened by a “blind” commitment to integration and a growing neglect of the educational needs of blacks. Television journalist Tony Brown, who organized the rally, called the challenge to black higher education a clear and present danger. “Without black colleges and universities,” he said, “the country would lose more than half of its black college graduates.” Other speakers echoed Brown's concern. “We're here to save our kids' minds from extinction,” said longtime civil rights activist Dick Gregory.

Since 1970, the black student population at colleges across the nation has increased by 275 percent. According to the latest Census Bureau figures, blacks account for 10 percent of all college students, just slightly below their 13 percent overall proportion in the population. But the traditionally black colleges, which 20 years ago enrolled 96 percent of all black college students, now enroll fewer than 20 percent.

As more black students enter predominantly white institutions, hard-pressed black colleges face a struggle for survival. The integration of black schools by whites and the merger of black state colleges into statewide university systems are seen as threats to their unique identities. Black college officials also complain that the federal government has begun to designate less money for their schools at a time when many of them badly need such assistance to stay in operation.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Colleges and Universities
May 20, 2022  Free Speech on Campus
Dec. 04, 2020  Graduates' Prospects
Sep. 11, 2020  Higher Education in the COVID Era
Oct. 26, 2018  Issues in Higher Education
Nov. 20, 2015  Greek Life on Campus
May 08, 2015  Free Speech on Campus
Jan. 02, 2015  College Rankings
Jan. 18, 2013  Future of Public Universities
Feb. 04, 2011  Crime on Campus
Jan. 07, 2011  Career Colleges
Apr. 21, 2000  Community Colleges
Feb. 16, 1996  Academic Politics
Jan. 05, 1990  What Should College Students Be Taught?
Jul. 27, 1984  Colleges in the 1980s
Jan. 23, 1981  Plight of America's Black Colleges
Apr. 11, 1980  College Admissions
Sep. 06, 1974  College Recruiting
Mar. 01, 1974  Academic Tenure
Sep. 14, 1966  Graduate School Crush
Civil Rights: African Americans
Diversity Issues
Segregation and Desegregation
Undergraduate and Graduate Education