GREENSBORO, N.C. (WGHP) — There’s a shift happening at North Carolina A&T State University. Enrollment data is showing the Aggie family is growing and becoming more colorful each year.
This school year, A&T reported the highest enrollment numbers of any other HBCU for the ninth year in a row, and they’re on track for more growth next year.
A record-breaking 13,500 students enrolled this year, and another 500 are expected next year. Students from all states, countries, races and backgrounds are choosing this school over the others.
Twenty percent of the student population is made up of white, Latino, Asian, Pacific Islander and Native American students. That number is up 3% from last year and is the highest number of students from different racial backgrounds the university has ever had.
“Having people from different demographics and backgrounds attracted to our great university kind of proves that there’s actually resources here. And to me, it feels like I’m at the right place,” said Troy Blaylock, a senior engineering major.
For some Black students, choosing this university was easy. But students from other races say this was also their top choice.
Junior engineering major Laura Garcia is from Columbia. She says had many options to be a student-athlete at other schools, but she wanted in on one of the country’s top engineering programs.
“There’s actually a lot of diversity in this university, so I think that especially engineering majors…see people of all places around the world working together, and I think that’s pretty cool,” Garcia said.
It was the same for Flor Hurtado from Venezuela. She says A&T was one of her top choices.
“I had other opportunities and offers from other schools, but it’s the same thing. I know the engineering program is huge here at A&T, and being the HBCU number one in the country also helps a lot, so it makes easier my decision of coming to A&T,” Hurtado said. “It didn’t bother me at all that it was an HBCU. I just wanted the opportunity to get a nice degree and also be a part of a tennis team.”
Dr. Tonya Smith-Jackson, Interim provost and executive vice chancellor for academic affairs, says the growing diversity is a compliment to the university.
“There’s an appreciation for what we bring. There is a recognition of the intellect that we have brought into America as a people over time. And other people are recognizing that,” Smith-Jackson said.
Besides their education, non-Black students at the school are also getting the opportunity to immerse themselves in a new culture.
“It feels exciting because I love the diversity. I love learning new cultures because of course our culture is way different than what we’re experiencing here at A&T, but I just love the fact that I get to know people from everywhere while being here, so it’s very exciting for me,” Hurtado said.
“I think that there’s many people that don’t pay much attention to that, and it’s like ‘be open to know new cultures, and be open to experience new things with people who don’t have the same customs as they do.’ And I think…this is giving us that opportunity, and I really like that.” Garcia said.
Even with growing diversity on campus, A&T has always been and remains predominantly black.
“We are working on a diversity strategic plan. We have a chief diversity officer who is leading us and making sure that we are also framing diversity from an HBCU perspective and not from the perspectives of predominantly white institutions who have used an entirely different framework,” Dr. Smith-Jackson said.
This is because HBCUs were created out of necessity when Black students were being kept out of other universities and being denied the opportunity to get a higher education.
Today, they are safe havens for Black students and are filled with rich history and culture. Students and alumni want to see that culture preserved and celebrated.
“I’m more welcoming. I think the main purpose of coming to college is to kind of foster education amongst community. So as long as it’s maintaining that core aspect, I personally have no complaints. I know other folks might have reservations in fear of the culture might be lost through some of the shifting proportions of demographics, but I haven’t noticed any significant difference in the culture shift overall,” Blaylock said.
“Our commitment to our mission is true in terms of our ability to being able to uphold our commitment to improving the human condition which is part of our land grant mission. Part of that…does relate to ensuring that the culture that has served this community for so very long — the community locally and also the community across the nation — that that cultural perspective is always alive and well,” Dr. Smith-Jackson said.
No matter how the demographics of the university shift over the years, campus administrators say they’re staying committed to excellence in education while maintaining that one-of-a-kind HBCU experience.
“Whoever comes to North Carolina A&T has to understand that HBCU perspective, embrace the HBCU perspective and apply it to improve the human condition,” Dr. Smith Jackson said.
In addition to racial and ethnic diversity, A&T’s student body last year included students from 48 states and from more than 90 nations.
The staff there say they’re building and renovating to keep pace with the growth and ensuring facilities and services match the student body’s needs.