Logo for: President's Alliance Higher Education & Immigration

In this report:

  1. Introduction
  2. Strategies to Support Black Immigrants and Black Undocumented Students
  3. Institutional-Level Strategies
  4. State- Level Policy Solutions
  5. Federal- Level Policy Solutions
  6. Conclusions
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Since their establishment, Historically Black Colleges & Universities (HBCUs) have played a vital role in providing educational opportunities to students traditionally neglected due to systemic inequities in the American postsecondary education system. HBCUs hold a unique mission of promoting academic excellence, cultural awareness, and community engagement, rooted in their history of enrolling and educating Black students during periods of societal, racially-based segregation where HBCUs were the sole postsecondary institutions educating Black students. While the American postsecondary education system no longer experiences de jure racial segregation, the importance of HBCUs in offering accessible education opportunities has remained consistent.

As of 2022, the U.S. Department of Education officially recognized 99 HBCUs.1 Close to 40 percent of all Black students apply to at least one HBCU, 2 and 10 percent of all Black college students are enrolled at an HBCU despite the fact that these institutions comprise only three percent of all postsecondary institutions. 3 Additionally, going to an HBCU increases the likelihood of graduation for Black students compared to their Black peers at similar non-HBCU institutions.4

Although continuing to serve as a key point of access to educational opportunities for Black students, HBCUs have recently witnessed a decline in enrollment. Between 2010 to 2021, overall enrollment and Black student enrollment at HBCUs declined by 12 percent and 19 percent respectively,5 a worrying trend given how effective HBCUs are at generating positive socioeconomic mobility for Black students compared to similar institutions.6 Though the overall college enrollment rate has decreased slightly over the same period,7 the effect on HBCUs has been far more pronounced.

Critical to the viability and sustainability of HBCUs moving forward is their capacity to serve immigrant students, including Black immigrants. Over the past two decades, the number of immigrant students enrolled in postsecondary education has nearly doubled.8 In 2021, over 329,000 Black first-generation immigrant students,9 excluding Black international students,10 were enrolled at an institution of higher education in the United States.11 This brief aims to explore the role of HBCUs in addressing the unique needs of Black immigrant students and to emphasize the importance of tailored support for Black immigrant students at these institutions.

Strategies to Support Black Immigrants and Black Undocumented Students

Immigrant students are integral to the sustainability of colleges and universities across the United States, with Black immigrants playing a particularly significant role in the nation’s social and economic growth. In 2021, Black immigrants accumulated over $150 billion in household income and paid over $30 billion in taxes.22

Policymakers now have a unique opportunity to strategically invest in HBCUs, empowering these institutions to support their students, especially Black immigrant students and Black undocumented students. These recommendations aim to amplify support, improve recruitment efforts, and address financial aid accessibility for Black immigrant students at HBCUs.

Institutional-level Strategies

State-Level Policy Solutions

Federal-level Policy Solutions

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