'You don't want to be in an environment where you have to defend your Blackness': More students enrolling in HBCUs as hate crimes increase

FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (WTVD) -- More students are attending HBCUs. That's according to a study conducted by the Stanford University Center for Education Policy Analysis, which links a twenty percent increase in new student enrollment at HBCU's to the national, social and political climate, as well as increased hate crimes.

For freshmen student Maya Martin, selecting Fayetteville State University felt like an extension of life at home family atmosphere where she's comfortable being herself and on a college campus where she doesn't have to worry about feeling invisible.

"You don't want to be in an environment where you have to constantly defend your Blackness and defend the wrongs made against us," said Martin.

Images of the infamous eight minutes and 46 seconds on a street in Minneapolis burned in Maya Martin's memory. The killing of George Floyd solidified her decision to attend a HBCU, where minorities are the majority.

"Black people are not a monolith and we're very diverse diaspora of people. So when I came to my HBCU, I came with the realization knowing what I got to learn more about different types of black people and myself," said Martin.

For the 18-year-old English Pre-Law student, HBCU pride runs deep starting with her mom, who is a first generation-college student and graduate of Shaw University.

Martin's twin sister is a freshmen student at North Carolina Central University.

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HBCUs are seeing an increase in new student enrollment. Fayetteville State University saw its largest enrollment in its 153 year history this school year with 736 freshmen students.

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"We are a hometown university in spite of or in light of the social unrest happening across the nation. Students and parents alike wanted to be sure their child or student is safe," said Thalia Wilson, said Assistant Vice-Chancellor of Enrollment Management at Fayetteville State University.

That's no surprise to Martin, who said HBCUs are often underestimated. Martin is inspired to one day break barriers like HBCU graduate and Vice President Kamala Harris.

"I think for a long time people have kind of pushed away HBCU education or othered us and said it's just an HBCU. It's not that good. Our programs aren't that good. Her being sworn in proved our education is just as good as going to an Ivy League or PWI," said Martin.
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