HBCU student-athletes seek gold in more ways than one


Student-athletes are more than their sport. They are academics, leaders and volunteers; and these roles can be their ticket to social mobility after graduation. Historically, black colleges and universities (HBCUs) turned to sports in their early years as a way to develop leaders and join the widespread inclusion of sports teams on college campuses in the late 1800s. the Smithsonian Natural Museum of African American History and Culture, “These new sporting spaces have helped create distinctive African American cultural traditions, such as step performances and dazzling marching bands.” The HBCUs offered the best opportunities because “African-American athletes could compete without facing the challenges of black student-athletes at many predominantly white universities: intentional attempts to hurt them, positional segregation, and racial discrimination.” These scholar-athletes walked down the middle-class path after graduating.

Today, sports are still important on HBCU campuses, with increased interest from star varsity athletes and a continued focus on the development of varsity athletes. A new campaign from the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC), made up of 8 HBCUs, demonstrates the commitment to intellectual and athletic strength on the part of these institutions. The ‘Step In’ campaign features the slogan, ‘From late nights in the gym to late nights at the library,’ making it clear that HBCU students are versatile and committed to their craft – they are serious about the job. sport, but also concentrated on academics.

Eight HBCUs make up MEAC: Delaware State University, Howard University, Morgan State University, North Carolina Central University, University of Maryland Eastern Shore, Norfolk State University, South Carolina State University, and Coppin State University. In the words of Tony Allen, president of Delaware State University, MEAC member, “Like many colleges and universities, we love to compete on the playing field, but for all of our students, we are more interested in developing champions, academics and citizens. “

Six of the MEAC member establishments are in the top 20 of 2022 US News and World Reports HBCU annual ranking. These include Howard University at number 2 among all ranked HBCUs, just behind Spelman College in Atlanta, Delaware State University, Morgan State University and Central Carolina University. North to numbers 10, 12 and 13, respectively. And, the University of Maryland, the Eastern Shore, and Norfolk State University hold 17th and 20th places.

Several MEAC schools have also ranked among national universities for social mobility, including Howard University (15), Delaware State University (30), University of Maryland Eastern Shore (36), and Morgan State University (72). Social mobility rankings are based on a school’s ability to enroll and graduate a large proportion of disadvantaged students receiving Pell scholarships. According to US News“Economically disadvantaged students are less likely than others to complete college, even after accounting for other characteristics. But some colleges are more successful than others in advancing social mobility by enrolling and graduating large proportions of disadvantaged students on Pell scholarships. The vast majority of these federal scholarships are awarded to students whose adjusted gross family income is less than $ 50,000.

In recent years, colleges and universities that are more successful in transferring low-income students to the middle class have received increased attention, mainly due to research by Raj Chetty, and later by higher education researchers. who drew on the data prepared by Chetty. Research shows that although HBCUs welcome more low-income students than other colleges, nearly 70% of HBCU graduates end up with at least middle-class income. According to Wayne AI Frederick, president of Howard University, MEAC member, “The socio-economic status of an individual should not prevent talented students from obtaining higher education. Howard University has a large population of Pell-eligible students, and we are committed to helping them succeed through a variety of targeted tutoring programs and grant opportunities.

With rich traditions – often linked to sports culture – HBCUs emphasize academics, social mobility and active citizenship for their student-athletes and all of their students. As President Allen explained, “Historically Black colleges and universities rigorously harness a proud heritage and commitment to excellence in all fields of human endeavor to build a pool of exceptional professionals and even better citizens. “