Enrollment is growing at Virginia HBCUs. But they face historic underfunding.
As enrollment drops at many Virginia higher education institutions, the state’s two public historically Black colleges and universities offer a bright spot, with steady student increases.
However, a historical lack of funding for HBCUs and financial resources for their students is causing concern among policymakers and graduates.
“The idea is not to reduce funding and appropriation from other schools. We need that, but I’m talking about the fair share that the law said was delayed some 90 years [ago],” said Judge Roger Gregory, a graduate of HBCU Virginia State University, at a Sept. 28 symposium at Virginia Commonwealth University about addressing the funding shortage.
Between 2009 and 2022, data from the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia, the coordinating body for colleges and universities in the commonwealth, found HBCUs Norfolk State and Virginia State were among the top five four-year public institutions with the most significant enrollment growth, with at least 5.5% increases in their student populations. (The others were the University of Virginia, Virginia Tech and William & Mary.) Between 2018 and 2022, the private HBCU Hampton University recorded the highest enrollment growth in Virginia, at 72.8%.
The most recent data from SCHEV shows that in 2020-21, Norfolk State and Virginia State both received the highest amount of state funding on a per-in-state student basis.
However, researchers have documented major historical shortfalls in funding for HBCUs. Federal officials this September estimated Virginia State had been underfunded by more than $277 million between 1987 and 2020.
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