HBCUs experiencing lower COVID-19 infection rates: report

HBCUs are doing something right when it comes to reducing the spread of the virus

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While some colleges and universities are having a hard time managing the coronavirus, historically Black colleges and universities are doing something right.

Read More: White House sends 250K virus tests to 41 HBCUs, official says

A recent report by Inside Higher ED says despite the pandemic some schools have been successful at reducing the spread of coronavirus while keeping their students in the classroom.

North Carolina A&T State University, in particular, held classes on Labor Day to prevent students from gathering in large groups at parties or other gatherings.

“We held classes to discourage our students from going anywhere,” said associate vice chancellor for university relations Todd Simmons. “I think they thought it was worth the trade-off,” since students were allowed to take in-person classes when other schools around the country, such as Salem College and Berklee College of Music in Boston are only offering online classes.

HBCU faculty is well aware that Black people are more susceptible to contracting the virus and are encouraging students to wear their masks, socially distance, and not partake in large gatherings. It appears to have worked. The school did not learn of any large gatherings that took place over the Labor Day holiday and between Sept. 11- 17, the school only reported eight new coronavirus cases.

“Our students may be coming to A&T and to other HBCUs with different mindsets and different expectations about what college means,” said Simmons. “They know that the stakes are high and the opportunities to transform their lives are enormous. That may mean they are more ready to police themselves with regard to COVID protection, and that could be an important reason why our campuses are not experiencing big clusters or outbreaks.”

Spelman, Black colleges, online thegrio.com
Pre-coronavirus, Spelman students attended a film screening at the school. (Photo: Getty Images)

NC A&T is part of the North Carolina school system and though it’s smaller than North Carolina State University, which saw 1,000 new cases since it opened its doors this fall, HBCU leaders say the size of the student body doesn’t offset the significant increase in infections.

Schools like NC A&T are also seeing enrollment increases while some predominately white institutions are seeing a decline. NC A&T saw a 3.9% increase in enrollment from last year. North Carolina’s Elizabeth City State University also saw an increase in enrollment from 1,773 in 2019 to 2,002 for 2020.

“I think some of it is the HBCU culture,” says Brenda Claire Caldwell, president of the Student Government Association at NC A&T. “We’re just like a community, and we want to keep our community safe. We know that Black and brown communities have been affected by COVID and some of us have had family sick from it. And we know we’re going to go back to our vulnerable communities, and I think this motivates us.”

Read More: HBCU campuses set to safely reopen with help of Thurgood Marshall College Fund, United Negro College Fund

According to the National Urban League, Black people are three times more likely than whites to get the coronavirus.

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