‘Mentally and Physically Safe’: Stanford Study Finds More Black Students Are Enrolling In HBCUs Amid Rise In Hate Crimes

An increase in hate crimes is linked to a spike in enrollment at historically Black colleges and universities, according to a Stanford study.

Researchers analyzed a data set of institutional enrollment and characteristics, reported hate crimes, and Census data on state racial demographics from 1999 to 2017 and found that a standard deviation increase in reports of state-level hate crimes predicts a 20 percent increase in Black first-time student enrollment at HBCUs.

Dominique Baker, a professor of education policy at Southern Methodist University and a co-author of the study, noted the research cannot define a “causal relationship” between state hate crimes and Black student enrollment at HBCUs.

“It’s useful to understand how macro-level intolerance and oppression is related to institutional enrollment decisions,” Baker said. “Knowing this is a first step to higher education institutions working to actively create welcoming campus environments where all students can thrive while feeling safe.”

The study was released by the Stanford University Center for Education Policy Analysis last month. Researchers noted that there has been a rapid increase in hate crimes over the past several years and acknowledged that the broader sociopolitical atmosphere has an impact on college life for students on campuses across the country. The paper also noted that the actual number of hate crimes is likely higher than the reported number of hate crimes.

Researchers tied the rise in hate crimes to the election of former President Donald Trump.

“Counties with the largest voting margins in favor of Trump also had a relatively larger
number of reported hate crimes when compared to counties with smaller voting margins in favor of Trump,” according to the paper.

According to Baker, amid rising hate crimes and racial turmoil, Black students choose institutions “where they can thrive and be mentally and physically safe.”

“HBCUs have worked really hard to make sure that Black students feel welcome and centered,” Baker said. “It is rare for non-HBCUs to have structured themselves to center students of color, from their mission to how they design their curriculum to how they hire their faculty.”

The study suggested that Black students may be more likely to apply to Black college or university if they feel that there is a greater incidence of racial hostility or a less-welcoming environment at predominately white institutions.

Tolani Britton, a professor of education policy at the University of California Berkeley who also co-authored the paper, said the study was unable to determine the relationship between campus hate crimes and Black student enrollment at universities between the same 1999- 2017 period.

Britton suggested campus hate crimes are less likely to be talked about than other state-level hate crimes and that parents and students may be less aware when those incidents occur on college campus.

Britton added that she believes that the election of Vice President Kamala Harris, a Howard alumna, as well as the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement last summer could prompt more prospective students to attend an HBCU.

“We now have a vice president who’s a graduate of an HBCU. … I think now more than ever, students are going to enroll in institutions where they’re going to feel physically and mentally safe.”

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