By Chris Anders
Data News Weekly Contributor
It’s a small twenty-first century reverse migration, but African American students and recent graduates are among the largest group of transplants moving back South, according to recent studies of Census data. Lower costs of living, including the cost of college, figure into the trend. Higher education institutions are tapping into the appeal, by developing relationships with institutions outside of the South.
In March 2015, the largest higher education system in the country: California Community Colleges, that comprises 2.1 million students, with 100,000 seeking to transfer to bachelor degree earning institutions, created the California HBCU Transfer Guarantee Program. Now Xavier University of Louisiana has signed on as a partner of this grant-sponsored initiative by the chancellor of the CCC system in Fall 2018, and hopes to pipeline more students of color from the West Coast to experience an HBCU education in New Orleans.
“We see this as a great opportunity for both California students, who may be unfamiliar with the benefits of attending a HBCU (Historically Black College and University), as their state has none, and for Xavier, as we seek to enroll meritorious students from all across our nation who wish to increase their knowledge and pursue their excellence here at Xavier,” said C. Reynold Verret, Xavier’s president, in an official announcement on the agreement.
The partnership with California Community Colleges expands the university’s efforts to also attract local community college students to complete their bachelor’s degrees at HBCUs.
“We are excited to be able to offer Louisiana community college students a stream-lined path to continue their education at Xavier, where they will have access to a unique academically enriching and personally rewarding experience,” Verret said.
It’s not just pharmacy and natural science programs that are attractive to community college transfer students, but the opportunity to study a wide range of programs in an environment that is predominantly black.
“I Google-searched the best mass communication programs at HBCUs and Xavier was the first one to come up. I was so surprised because I thought Xavier was just a pharmacy school,” said Brianna Montgomery, now a mass communication major, who transferred in 2017 from a California community college. “I’m so happy I came to Xavier. I feel as if they really care about the future of their students,” Montgomery said.
Coming to Xavier from a community college in California was an easy choice Montgomery said, because she wanted to attend an HBCU and in her home state there is not one to attend. She said she struggled in community college to find students and mentors to relate to. She said in New Orleans, at an HBCU, she feels supported and invested in.
The support often comes in removing the red tape between institutions and making transfers hassle free.
“Xavier was the all-around best choice for me personally because I was in a rush to find a school,” said Samir Chikhaoui, a junior business major, who transferred from a California college. “I had trouble with my credits transferring at other universities for some reason and at Xavier I only lost one credit, so I was just happy to have found a place,” Chikhaoui said.
Local community college students say they also have many options when considering where to complete a bachelor’s degree. However, the process of transferring can often be difficult because many schools reject the courses they have already completed at community colleges in the state. With such agreements, bachelor’s degree granting schools are more willing to accept the coursework they have already completed and allow them to complete their studies within a relatively shorter time frame. In saving time, they can save costs.
“My admissions process went very smoothly, I knew I had met the requirements so I wasn’t stressed,” said Brandon Brown, a Xavier senior, who transferred from Delgado Community College in 2016. “They accepted me right away and all my credits transferred which was a great feeling,” Brown said.
He was relieved he didn’t need to go far to complete his bachelor’s degree.
“Growing up in New Orleans you hear about how great of a school Xavier is and actually being able to come to Xavier has allowed me to improve many professional skills,” Brown said of his experience.