I moved on to the campus of North Carolina State University anxious and ready to begin my college education. Unlike many of my friends, I chose to attend a Predominately White Institution (PWI). I did so fully become aware of the fact that when on my way to classes, sitting in class, eating at the dining hall, and even relaxing in my residence hall, there would not be many so to speak, “Dwayne-Waynes” or “Whitley Gilberts” in these places with me. However, this was a reality that I was used to, as my high school was predominately white as well. The fact that I would be attending a PWI was not something that I had given a second thought. I had always heard that the college experience was what you make of it, and was under the impression that the experience would for the most part be the same, no matter where I attended college. However, before leaving to come to school (and even still now) friends and other people that are currently attending, or have attended school at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) like to argue that the experience of attending a PWI is inexplicably different than the experience gathered on the campus of an HBCU.
So exactly what is it that makes the experience of attending college at an HBCU so much different than that of a PWI, and are black students that attend a PWI really getting the most out of the college experience? The answer to this question will vary depending on who it is being directed towards. While some may argue that yes, black students attending PWI’s are missing out on the HBCU experience, others will vehemently dispute this. Rodney Nobles, an alumnus of North Carolina Agricultural & Technical State University (NC A&T), sides with those that believe black students benefit more from the HBCU experience. “Personally for me, it was a great experience,” said Nobles. “The culture at an HBCU is defiantly different than on a predominantly white campus, mainly because the professors are generally alumni of the HBCU where they are teaching, and feel more of a connection with their students. Because of this, you truly feel that the campus is united as a family.” Nobles also commented on his Alma Mater of NC A&T stating, “The history of the school had a profound effect on me. At an HBCU the sense of pride you have in your school is greater. Classes are not as large, and you have the opportunity to develop closer relationships with more people…AGGIE PRIDE!”
At the other end of the spectrum is Jamal Miller, an alumnus of North Carolina State University. On his experience at NC State, Miller stated, “It was all about the same. Here at State, we are right in the middle of everything. Basically you’ve got the best of both worlds with North Carolina Central University, which is also an HBCU, and NC A&T close by. If anything, I missed out on the aspect of everything being black. At State there is still a strong black community. Because there are not a lot of us, every black person knows everybody, and even if you don’t know names, you at least know faces.” While Miller did not find many differences in State and HBCU’s he did mention the differences in Homecoming festivities. “Homecoming at State is very different than A&T homecoming and Central homecoming; but overall, I don’t feel as if I missed out,” he said.
Casi Johnson, a sophomore at NCCU feels that HBCU’s are better for African Americans. “HBCU’s are better for black students because they foster a sense of family for students. There are certain students that can handle the atmosphere of a PWI. Personally after attending a predominantly white high school, I had low self-esteem and my mom told me ‘You should go to an HBCU because you’ll be able to see people that look like you succeed and excel in the academics. Not because they are the prettiest or skinniest in the world, but because they are intelligent beings.’ I can see that now and I am appreciative of the intimate setting of an HBCU.” NC State sophomore Chase Johnson had a deferring opinion about the experience of attending a PWI and said, “Going to a PWI is not any worse. If you still want to take advantage of the social life of an HBCU, there are several HBCU’s nearby that you can travel to. Going to a PWI like NC State, the black community here is so close because they are not that many of us.”
In the end, I personally feel that the college experience is all about what you make of it. Whether attending a PWI or HBCU, students can make the best of any situation and excel both academically and socially in any type of college environment. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, and in my opinion black students at Predominantly White Institutions are not missing out on anything… what do you think?