Because of A Different World, I knew I didn’t have to accept that fate. I didn’t have to be an Other”

Historically Black Colleges and Universities are beginning to see a surge in interest, applications and enrollment. For many, HBCUs have provided a sense of family and support that led to self-discovery and a strong level of pride in Blackness.

HBCUs are widely respected for their high level academia and their rich history of being a vehicle that granted many access to a good education during times when Black people were prohibited from attending PWIs (predominantly white institutions).

Over the decades many have credited NBC’s ‘80s and ‘90s primetime family sitcom The Cosby Show, and its spin-off A Different World, as the influence that lead to their HBCU attendance. The Cosby Show had continuous mentions of the characters Cliff and Claire Huxtable’s fictitious Virginia alma mater Hillman. It was followed up by a show based on Hillman, A Different World.

Photo courtesy of A Different World Fans on Instagram

The sitcom dove deep into the culture and traditions of Black colleges, giving insight on campus life, Black organizations, and dilemmas shared by the Black collegiate youth. In more recent years, reruns have streamed on various platforms, captivating an entirely new audience.

Journalist Mark Luckie, a graduate of the reputable HBCU Bethune-Cookman, says he found characters on the show to be his kindred spirit which sparked his interest in researching Black colleges.

“When I began applying for colleges my senior year, my extended family insisted that I attend a predominantly white institution like New York University or the University of California, Los Angeles. My strong grade point average and long list of extracurriculars meant to them that I should attend a more “suitable” school. However, during campus visits, I immediately noticed that the number of students who looked like me was few. Because of A Different World, I knew I didn’t have to accept that fate. I didn’t have to be an Other,” Luckie said.

Others have cited Vice President Kamala Harris, the first female vice president and woman of color, as inspiration when deciding on the best fit for their college career.

The vice president graduated from Howard University, arguably one of the most famous HBCUs in the world, in 1986 earning her bachelor’s degree in political science and economics.

“Thurgood has walked this campus, I mean it’s just a long legacy and it’s shaped so much of who I am. My first office that I ever ran for was freshman class representative of the Liberal Arts Student Council. Howard has a long history of real student activism,” the Vice President said.

In a 2020 interview with CNN, VP Harris said: “Every signal told students we could be anything, that we were young, gifted and Black and shouldn’t let anything get in the way of our success.”

Vice President Harris said that she interpreted this as not ever having to be confined to anyone’s idea of what being Black was.

According to NBC Washington, Howard University has seen a 15% increase in undergraduate enrollment. Anthony Jones, Howard University’s assistant vice president of enrollment, believes the increase is heavily correlated to the political climate and Vice President Harris.

“We can’t ignore the fact that we are blessed in the HBCU community to have some very high-profile individuals who are out there right now. Our own vice president of the United States, Kamala Harris, being one of those,” Jones told NBC.

According to Forbes, Morgan State, located in Baltimore, has seen a 60% increase in undergraduate applications from last year.

With America and the rest of world finally recognizing the greatness that pours from HBCUs, donations have flooded in from people of all races. According to The New York Times, philanthropist MacKenzie Scott has donated 500 million to multiple HBCUs this past year. Other wealthy contributors are following suit.

Story Credit: Marconja Zor/thegrio

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