As a high school senior, Deidra Johnson applied to several prestigious colleges. Johnson’s parents were proactive in taking her and some friends on an extensive college tour to expose them to campus life. All that was left was to make a decision.

After mulling over acceptances from schools such as University of Maryland and Winthrop University, she embraced the school that had so warmly embraced her during her campus visit, the one that felt the most like home: Tennessee State University, a historically black institution.

“When we got to the campus and I saw the President’s House, I just kind of lit up,” said Johnson. “Everyone was so nice and pleasant, the campus was really nice and I really enjoyed my visit.”

Johnson’s search for the perfect college fit is a common reason many students choose to attend historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs). In fact, the United Negro College Fund reports that HBCUs graduate twenty percent of African Americans with undergraduate degrees. The sense of community, the the level of student engagement by the faculty and and the often lower tuition than comparable predominantly white institutions (PWIs) have some students flocking to the “Ebony Tower”.

Mitchell Ramseur, an graduate of Tuskegee University, echoes this sentiment.

“Tuskegee felt like family,” said the North Carolina native. “I felt some classism, but not racism, which allowed me to focus more.” He contrasted the nurturing experience at Tuskegee with that of graduate school at a PWI, where he says he felt like “just a number.”

Ramseur’s HBCU experience played such large role in his development that he recently co-founded My HBCU Interview, a division of his company Universal Tutoring LLC. “Our goal is to interview every HBCU graduate on the planet,” he laughed. Ramseur shared that their primary focus is to use alumni experiences to encourage more applications and enrollment in these institutions. “We want students to see that there is a choice.”

But what does this choice mean in our so-called “post racial” society? In the Chronicle of Higher Education, Richard Vedder writes “In a nation where there is a black president elected largely with white votes, where blacks are found with increasing frequency as Secretary of State, in Congress, as leading entertainers and sports figures, and as CEO’s of prestigious companies like American Express, do we really need to have HBCU’s?”

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