Minority Enrollment Demand for Higher Education at Historically Black Colleges and Universities from 1976 to 1998: An Empirical Analysis

Article excerpt

Introduction

Historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) were established during the segregation period of U.S. history in response to the demand for education by Blacks who did not have access to White educational institutions. As a group, Blacks share a common historical experience of segregation that was characterized by relatively limited educational resources to meet the demand of the black population for higher education. Currently there are 103 HBCUs (53 private and 50 public institutions), representing approximately 3% of the total U.S. institutions of higher education and about 2% of the total U.S. college enrollment (National Center for Education Statistics, 1996). Collectively, these institutions have also been undergoing, over the past three decades, a declining share of black high graduates' enrollment in higher educational institutions. Despite federal desegregation policies, such a relative decline has not been compensated by a corresponding increase in HBCUs' relative share of the total population of non-Black high school graduates' enrollment in higher education.

Although most HBCUs experienced enrollment growth during the periods of educational expansion in the U.S., overall their share of national enrollment has declined because of two factors: the increase in community colleges and the Adams court decisions desegregating higher education in the south (Hauptman & Smith, 1994). Table 1 shows that the total enrollment in HBCUs expanded by about 18.69% from 222,613 students in 1976 to 273,472 in 1998. Despite the modest increase in the number of non-Black students attending HBCUs, the level of diversity in terms of race and ethnicity has remained almost unchanged. Hence, Black students have consistently represented about 81% of the total annual enrollment at HBCUs during that period.

Table 2 indicates that the total U.S. enrollment of Blacks 14 to 34 years of age in postsecondary educational institutional institutions increased significantly by 66% from 996,000 in 1980 to 1,640,000 in 1998. Consequently, the total Black enrollment in all colleges and universities rose from 9.78% in 1980 to 12.75% in 1998. However, as a group, HBCUs' relative share of the total Black enrollment in higher educational institutions declined from 18.18% in 1980 to 13.70% in 1998. In contrast, Black students' enrollment in other institutions of higher education, as a percentage of the total Black enrollment in the U.S., rose from 80.82% in 1980 to 86.3% in 1998. While Black students' enrollment in other colleges and universities rose by 76% from 805,011 in 1980 to 1,415,255 students in 1998, the enrollment of non-Black students in HBCUs rose only by 16.82% (from 42,568 to 49,727) during the same period.

Several factors may have contributed to the decline of HBCUs' relative share of total Black student enrollment in postsecondary educational institutions, and there is no empirical evidence about their effects in the literature. The survival and growth of many HBCUs depend on their ability to maintain or improve their relative share of Black students, who traditionally represented their major source of enrollment. The purpose of this paper is to provide an empirical analysis of the determinants of Black student enrollment in HBCUs. Such information may be useful for policy decisions. An overview of the factors influencing Black enrollment in higher education and a description of the methodological framework as well as the data used in this study are provided in the next section.

Methodology and Data Collection

The Determinants of Enrollment Demand

The literature provides a large body of information on the various factors that have been influencing the demand for higher education by Black high school graduates in the U. S. Demographic trends affect the demand for higher education as well as the supply of high school graduates who attend the various postsecondary institutions. …