HBCUs face constant enrollment battle

According to the College Board, during the 2008-2009 academic year the average cost of yearly tuition at a private, four-year college in the U.S. was $25,143, and for public schools $6600. With the cost of a college education continuing to rise during these times of recession the enrollment at institutions of higher learning have been adversely affected and that is especially true for a number of historically black colleges. But there is light at the end of the tunnel as a number of HBCUs in South Carolina are rebounding after years of strife.

Allen University, downtown Columbia

At Columbia’s Allen University, enrollment has nearly tripled in the past four years. Allen University President Dr. Charles Young says students are able to attend school by securing loans and while many may owe $50,000 or more after they graduate he impresses upon youngsters that they shoukld view it as an investment in their futures. Young has been at Allen for four years and he says the school is in the midst of a renaissance.
“We have gown in student population the last three to four years from 300 to 800 students on campus. we have just completed the construction of two new dormitories housing 474 students. We are also in the process of renovating the old Waverly hospital. that building will help us expand our math and science rogram.”
Young says in 2003, Allen had 12 students majoring in mathematics and science. That figure has risen to 196 in 2009.
Lcated in one of smallest counties in the state Bamberg County in the tiny town of Denmark, Voorhees College is one of only three HBCUs affiliated with the Episcopal Church. A native of Denmark, Dr. Cleveland Sellers left his position as a professor at the University of South Carolina to return home to take on the challenge of leading Voorhees. Sellers says the school is having success in luring students to the rural pines an hour south of Columbia.
“For an institution that is tuition driven, actually improves our ability to do all the things we want to do with our students and that is providing them with a quality education, prepare them to graduate with a bachelor’s degee,and be able to go on to graduate school so they pursue graduate work and eventually a career.”
Sellers says the college has a freshman class of 300, with an overall student body of 700. The goal is 1100 students by 2013.
South carolina state university missed its goal of 5100 students by about 200 but President Dr. George Cooper says the school’s budget was based on 85 percent of the enrollment goal and 96 percent of tuition is in the bank. He says the school eliminated a number of positions in large measure because of a 34 percent reduction in state appropriations. Cooper says no academic programs were eliminated. Cooper says the schools higher SAT requirement may have eliminated some students from enrolling but rising tuition costs remains the main roadblock for most.
“We’ve had some tough economic times for families who have traditionally chosen South Carolina State University. We’re working hard to look at federal financial aid, grants, and loans and need-based scholarships. Out alums have realy come forward to help us with need-based scholarship support for our students.”
Cooper says two weeks ago, an anonymous alumnus presented the school with a $125,000 gift. Cooper says 85 percent of that gift will be used for need-based scholarships.
Allen President Dr. Charles Young says at small private HBCUs like Allen alumni donations are a vital part of the very lifeblood of the institution and a shining example is the school’s Student Development and Conference Center. “We needed additional funding to complete the project and the alumni gave us $300,000 to complete to finish the project and that shows that they are involved and they are excited about what is happening at their alma mater. We have also created a new alumni center in the building with office space so that brings them on to the campus to see first hand what is happening with our students.”

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