On paper, Bluefield State College is a notable historically black institution in the rolling hills of West Virginia where the children of black coal miners were educated in the early 1900s.
But in reality, Bluefield State College is 90 percent white in 2013 — a place where black students are few.
Should Bluefield State College still be considered an historically black college and receive federal funding?
According to NPR, which reported the story last week, Antonio Bolden, a black student at Bluefield State College, came to the college to play basketball, but was totally surprised when he arrived on campus.
“My first thought was: There are a lot of white people,” Bolden told NPR. “Where all the black people at?”
It’s a good question. On the school’s website, the welcome video shows a mix of white and black students, but far more white students than any other HBCU in the nation.
The evolution of Bluefield State College dates back to the 19th century. In the 1920’s, the school was known as the Bluefield Colored Institute where football was dominant and the black middle class was educated, according to NPR.
But in 1954, the Supreme Court declared segregation illegal in Brown v. Board of Education, and black students began considering mainstream universities for higher education.
“We had an out-migration of students of color because of Brown v. Board of Ed,” said Jim Nelson, a spokesman for the school, told NPR. “At roughly the same time that we had an in-migration of largely Caucasian students wanting to use their G.I. Bill benefits. So that’s what, as much as anything, that’s what flipped the complexion of the school.”
So today, black students like Antonio Bolden are in the minority and Bluefield State College is still officially listed – and federally funded — as an HBCU.
The news of Bluefield State College’s majority white student enrollment comes as many black colleges across the country are struggling. In fact, Dr. George Cooper, Executive Director of the White House Initiative for HBCU’s, summed up the sense of urgency for HBCU’s in an interview with BAW.