West Virginia’s Black College Student Population on Decline

Nadia Ramlagan

Amid declining enrollment at colleges in the Mountain State, new research showed Black students are disappearing from classrooms at higher rates.

According to a Lumina Foundation report, around 600,000 Black learners have vanished from American higher education institutions.

Zakiya Smith Ellis, principal of the consulting firm Education Counsel, said as more young people question the value of higher education, colleges should be prepared to have transparent discussions about the affordability of tuition.

“Thinking about the affordability of programs for students,” Smith Ellis urged. “That means telling them in clear terms what it will cost them as a bottom line to attend college, but also have that cost be based on realistically what can people afford to pay.”

Black community college enrollment overall dropped by 18% since pre-pandemic levels, with enrollment falling for Black men by 24%, according to the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies.

Smith Ellis pointed to the increased need for wraparound supports for students of color.

“Addressing the mental health, the child care, transportation, technology and food-security needs that students have,” Smith Ellis outlined. “Then last, but not least, all of these practices and teaching and learning need to really be centering students’ lived experiences. “

According to the report, Black and brown students are more likely to face food insecurity and work multiple jobs to meet basic needs.