Does attending a predominately white institute (frequently referred to as simply PWI) as a black student make me any less black than black students who attend a historically black college or university (HBCU)? Since I didn’t attend a HBCU, does that mean I am rejecting my blackness and those who paved a way for me to receive an education? I want to know when we reached a time where our decisions to attend a certain college or university became so judgmental. Why do I have to be judged because I opted out of the black college experience? Why do other black students assume that because I attended a PWI, I look down upon HBCUs or believe that I and my education are more elite than someone who attended an HBCU? These are just a few questions I ask myself as discussions about PWIs and HBCUs continue to circulate within the black community.
After doing some research, I found that the stigma associated with HBCUs is that they somehow provide fewer opportunities to students, and that they are less rigorous than the average PWI. While I did not attend an HBCU, I don’t believe that assumption at all. Given the success of so many African Americans who came before me and seeing very successful family members and friends who went to HBCUs, I think it is an unfair assumption to think that one institution is better than another because it is associated with race. It’s bigger than that. The foundation of HBCUs are bigger than that.
So if I understand the purpose and clearly vogue for HBCUs, why did I specifically choose not to attend one? For me, there were a few different reasons, some of which are listed below:
The school’s resources
The amount of financial aid offered to me at the PWI I ended up going to vs. what the HBCU offered
The experience I wanted have
The culture I was used to while growing up
My lack of desire to stay in the south
My personal reasons and choice had nothing to do with an idea that I’d receive a lesser education at an HBCU, or that I would in some way be less successful after graduating from a HBCU compared to a PWI. To be honest, a thought like that never even crossed my mind. Why a black student chooses one school over the other comes down to personal reasons. Each circumstance is different and each student usually has a different opinion on it.
My experience at a PWI was exceptional. While the majority of the campus was not black, I still felt a sense of community and support within the black community on campus. I was and am still proud of my black identity, even as I attended a PWI. Each school offers something different for students, and the school I chose was the right place for me.
While those are some of my personal reasons for attending a PWI over an HBCU, that doesn’t necessarily mean that every black student who went to a PWI feels the same. I can’t speak on the HBCU experience since I did not attend one, but I know several family members and friends who are just as - and sometimes even more - successful than people who attended a PWI. Your college experience is what you make it, regardless of the institute you choose to attend. It all boils down to your degree, the connections you make, and the opportunities you take to help you become successful. Whether you attend a community college, PWI, HBCU, or an Ivy League, your success is in your hands.