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WSSU, other HBCUs are rolling steady

WSSU, other HBCUs are rolling steady
July 19
19:04 2022

By John Railey

A recent front-page story in the New York Times confirmed what’s long been known on the WSSU campus: There’s a lot to like about HBCUs. In the story, https://www.nytimes.com/2022/06/11/us/hbcu-enrollment-black-students.html, Erica L. Green wrote:

In the past few years, the nation’s HBCUs have experienced a boom. From 2018 to 2021, for example, applications for a cross section of Black schools increased nearly 30%, according to the Common App, a platform for students to submit one application to multiple colleges, outpacing the increases of many other schools. Submissions using the Common Black College Application, solely for HBCUs, are projected to reach 40,000 this year, quadruple the total in 2016. And enrollment has soared at some of the schools, even as it declined nationally.

Applications and enrollment have remained steady at Winston-Salem State University. In the fall of 2021, 5,392 students applied, and 4,397 of those applicants were accepted in the freshman class, according to the WSSU website. 

One beneficial factor HBCUs offer is their high rates of upward economic mobility among graduates. A recent analysis of Harvard data by Zach Blizard, the research manager at WSSU’s Center for the Study of Economic Mobility (CSEM), found that HBCUs have higher percentages of their low-income students achieving upward mobility than non-HBCUs. 

Of the 2,203 universities and colleges nationwide with mobility estimates, WSSU is in the 88th percentile for the upward mobility of low-income students, and 5th among all North Carolina colleges and universities for economic mobility among its graduates. The state’s HBCUs lead in that statewide ranking, with seven of them in the top ten, Blizard found.

One WSSU graduate who has experienced that economic mobility is Jonathan Lindsay. “Winston-Salem State definitely helped me get to where I am, and I am pleased to see that others are doing the same thing,” he has said.

Lindsay was the first in his family to attend college when he arrived at WSSU. He graduated in 1996 with a degree in computer science. Now, Lindsay, who grew up in a two-bedroom apartment, is an operations manager with Microsoft in Charlotte. He and wife, Nikita, a doctor whom he met at WSSU, enjoy a fine quality of life.

He noted that one reason for the high rate of mobility is that many HBCU students “have a lot further to go.”

“I chose WSSU primarily for financial reasons initially,” he said recently. “As a first-gen college student, I didn’t want to take on too much debt for my education, as I knew that carrying so much debt would be detrimental as I tried to build wealth. In addition, I saw the opportunity to be involved in the accreditation process for the WSSU Computer Science department and was excited to be on the ground floor of something that was being built. 

“The relationships that started at WSSU, especially the one with my wife of 22 years, are some of the most valued that I have to this day. My friends from WSSU are truly ‘Ramily’. I am happy to say that, after more than 20 years in the IT industry, choosing WSSU was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.”

One of their two children is a student at N.C. Central University in Durham.

Guidance counselors at South Mecklenburg High School led Lindsay to WSSU, he said, where he had a full scholarship. The school’s career development efforts were not perfect. Now, WSSU Chancellor Elwood Robinson emphasizes those efforts. Lindsay works to build a pipeline for WSSU graduates to his company. 

CSEM complements such efforts through its support of the Playbook for Entrepreneurial Excellence, run by Tate Consulting, which helps WSSU students and business veterans with business networking. 

“It’s all about who you know, and there is no way around that,” Lindsay has said. “I got to my opportunity here not because of what I know but because someone could introduce me to someone in this space. The key is to take advantage when opportunity meets preparation.”

John Railey, raileyjb@nullgmail.com, is the writer-in-residence for CSEM, www.wssu.edu/csem.

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