Jun 30, 2023 - Education

How affirmative action ruling may impact HBCUs

Illustration of an unbalanced scale balanced on top of a pencil.

Illustration: Allie Carl/Axios

Historically Black colleges and universities in the Houston area are expecting more applicants after the U.S. Supreme Court rejected affirmative action in college admissions Thursday.

What they're saying: While Black students will be most adversely impacted by the decision, the ruling may positively impact HBCUs with increased enrollment as there will be "less inclination on the part of Black students to apply to primarily white institutions," Eddy Carder, an assistant professor of constitutional law and philosophy at Prairie View A&M, tells Axios.

Between the lines: HBCUs, which have already seen increased enrollment, are historically underfunded.

  • Increased enrollment can become a practical issue because enrollment means more resources, buildings, space and technology, Carder said.

The other side: "Just as the predominantly white institutions that have grown over the last 30 to 40 years, HBCUs have the capacity to handle that increased enrollment," James Douglas, a law professor at Texas Southern University, tells Axios.

  • He adds that TSU, which had about 8,600 students enrolled in fall 2022, does not have the capacity for 30,000 or 40,000 students instantly, but it does have the ability to grow.

State of play: Lower diversity at predominantly white universities will have consequences for the entire student population, Carder says.

  • "White students are going to be less exposed to cultural diversity and social diversity," Carder says, which will impact how these students conduct themselves when they enter the diverse workforce. And Black students will likely be more marginalized, he says.

Go deeper: The SCOTUS ruling could have a domino effect on corporate diversity initiatives.

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