5 Black Students

Brody Gasper and Sydney Freeman Jr.

Black Students

Read the following passage and identify the current issues for minority students at the University of Idaho.

  • What can the university do to improve diversity?
  • What unique challenges are faced by minority students at the University of Idaho?
  • How can the university address these concerns to make campus a more inclusive environment?

Observing the first of these areas, the Black student experience is one of the keystones of a university’s diversity and is the base level for the advancement of Black academia. As aforementioned, the University of Idaho has come a long way in regard to its student diversity on campus, with a greater number of Latino/Latinx, Asian, Native-American, international, and Black students on campus. Though this is an improvement, it is far from where the current Black student population should be.

The issue of recruiting Black students to the University has been a constant issue since the 1960s, with most of the Black student recruitment being through the Athletics Department. Most of the Black students today are student-athletes for the University, enrolled under scholarships or more affordable student tuition costs. The Athletics Department has had a notable budget in recent years, reporting a total budget of $21 million in the 2019 fiscal year.1 The 2019 budget for sports suggests that the University places high value on its athletics programs, which in that same year ran a deficit of nearly $1.5 million.

The University’s overall net budget for the 2019 fiscal year was around $472.5 million2 and maintained similar levels of funding in 2022 at around $471 million.3 This means that in 2019 alone, the University spent 22.5% of their entire budget on athletics, implying that the athletics program is heavily valued. These numbers are important, as they hold the statistical numbers of Black student-athletes at the University and help to better understand how Black student recruitment has been undertaken.

According to a report published by the National Center for Education Statistics in 2020, there has been a general increase of students of color aged 18-24 at colleges and universities across the nation. The report states that Black student enrollment rates increased from 31% in 2000 to 37% in 2018.4 Though this is impressive, the Black student population has remained very similar to its population in the early 2000s, percentage-wise, sitting at around 1.12%.

Though this lack of growth makes sense for the North Idaho area, the University has taken other interests in smaller student of color groups over those of Black students. Bailey Guyette, the first researcher to publish her findings on Black history at the University with Dr. Freeman, noted in an article from the Moscow-Pullman Daily News, in 2020, that when the University noticed a Latino/Latinx presence was on campus, an effort was made to recruit and facilitate them, leading to them having several Greek houses currently on campus.5

The effort undertaken by the University in recruiting a greater Latino/Latinx student population on campus is further shown by its percentage growth, from 865 enrolled students in 2012 to 1,115 in 2021.6 Though this rate of increase is not massive, and though the Latino/Latinx student population still has small numbers on campus, their population comprises around 9.4% of the student population in comparison to the 1.12% Black student population. The larger percentage of Latino/Latinx students on campus makes sense as this number reflects the growing rate of the Hispanic community, which currently sits at 13% of the total state of Idaho’s population.7

Though these statistics better explain the numbers, this and comments made by former University of Idaho president Chuck Staben fully uncovers the University policy regarding diversifying the University of Idaho. In 2018, an article published by Idaho Education News stated that “U of I President Chuck Staben said the university is committed to attracting a student body that looks like Idaho” (Kolodner 2018).8 Even though this is a rational argument for an Idaho university, especially one that has struggled with recruiting students of color, it also highlights the shortsightedness of university policy towards diversifying student populations. This mindset defines the notion that the University not further diversifying itself is an acceptable penalty of being located in North Idaho. While this is a more subtle move, it directly plays into the discrimination and systemic racism that Black students, and students of color in general, face in their pursuit of higher education. This mentality is what adversely affects the ability of a university to recruit and retain students of color as well as what seriously harms Black academia.

There have been many studies published that record either discriminatory policies at universities or discrimination from individuals on/around campus grounds. According to a Pew Research Center survey in 2016, 81% of Blacks with at least some college experience have experienced some kind of discrimination.9 This higher level of discrimination has given rise to greater mental health issues within Black university student populations, who have a much harder time at predominantly White institutions and have less support from faculty.

A study published in 2004 by Chavous et al. found that 34% of Black students at predominantly White universities with small Black student populations admitted to changing their behavior more towards the more dominant White culture present.10 This idea is further supported by two studies, published in 201111 and in 2013,12 dealing with minority-status stress or “…unique stressors experienced by minority students, which may include experiences with racism and discrimination, insensitive comments, and questions of belonging on a college campus.”13 The two studies found that out of all minority/racial student groups, Black college students are more likely to experience these unique stressors and are more prone to suffer from it if attending a predominantly White university.

The struggles of having to deal with a feeling of not belonging at a predominantly White university is further amplified by the lack of support Black students feel from faculty. Though much older, a study from 2002 observed that Black students at predominantly White institutions felt that they did not receive much support from outside ethnic group cliques and from faculty.14 This observation still very much exists within modern higher education, where there is increased demand by Black students for Black programs led by Black faculty. In this area, the University of Idaho has done a better job in recent years, as mentioned with the installment of a Black Cultural Center and the hiring of Director Mario Pile in 2022, aimed at aiding in that task.

Dealing with retention rates, the University of Idaho has continued to see development despite the effects of COVID on the higher education system. For example, the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, in October of 2021, found that there was a decline of 22.3% of Black students in higher education institutions during the spring of 2021 in comparison to the spring of 2020.15 The University of Idaho reported around 122 Black students during the spring of 2020, maintaining the percentage rate of around 1%, indicating that despite COVID, the University managed to retain a majority of its Black student population.16 And the University has also reported that during the fall 2021 semester, it saw an increase of enrollment by 4.7%, which suggests that, at least at the University of Idaho, COVID is not as limiting as it was in 2020.17

However, another area that the University may see some issues in, with regard to Black students, is their budgeting. Black families per capita have one of the lowest family incomes in the US, at least 15% lower than that of White families in 2020.18 Black students from these Black families also have some of the highest student loan debts, having nearly $25,000 more loan debt than White students, or 6% more than they borrowed originally against the 10% less owed by White students.19 This student loan debt gap between Black and White students within the United States highlights an important issue that very well affects the University of Idaho, as many of the Black students are either on scholarships or student loans. When compared with the University’s average tuition cost of $8,304 for an undergraduate degree in 2020, these money issues definitely play a role in the University’s ability to recruit new Black students.[^200] With the money allocated currently, it seems that the Black student population size will remain at similar levels unless the University is willing to divert more funding towards diversifying its campus.


  1. Evan Ellis, “U of I Athletics Department Deficit Grows Larger As Football Team Drops From NCAA Division 1 to FCS,” Big Country News, April 15, 2020, https://www.bigcountrynewsconnection.com/idaho/u-of-i-athletics-department-deficit-grows-larger-as-football-team-drops-from-ncaa-division/article_fb461d48-7f4c-11ea-aeeb-6784c611ee11.html#:~:text=The%20total%20budget%20for%20UI,deficit%20in%20Idaho%20last%20year
  2. “University of Idaho Summary of Sources and Uses of Funds Fiscal Year 2019,” University of Idaho Budget Office, 2019, https://web.archive.org/web/20200823094245/https://www.uidaho.edu/-/media/UIdaho-Responsive/Files/finance/budget-office/Budget-Reports/fy19-sources-and-uses-of-funds-report.pdf?la=en&hash=BBF65D801734C44C9D5C842CDC4CF90C784F993E. 
  3. “University of Idaho Summary of Sources and Uses of Funds Fiscal Year 2022,” University of Idaho Budget Office, 2022, https://www.uidaho.edu/-/media/UIdaho-Responsive/Files/division-of-finance-and-administration/budget-and-planning/budget-office/Budget-Reports/fy22-sources-and-uses-report.pdf?la=en&hash=4F794183BE662810B1F80E052E137AC12643060A. 
  4. “College Enrollment Rates,” National Center for Education Statistics, 2020. https://nces.ed.gov/programs/coe/pdf/coe_cpb.pdf. 
  5. Bailey Guyette, “More Black Faculty, Students Should be a Priority at UI,” _Moscow-Pullman Daily News, _March 3, 2020, https://dnews.com/opinion/march-letter-to-the-editor/article_6b10b199-ee86-5b54-9961-8262c52377c0.html
  6. “University of Idaho,” DataUSA, 2020, https://datausa.io/profile/university/university-of-idaho
  7. “Hispanic Population Statistics by County,” Idaho Commission of Hispanic Affairs, 2011, https://icha.idaho.gov/menus/idaho_counties.asp
  8. Meredith Kolodner, “Flagship Universities Struggle with Diversity in Enrollment,” _Idaho Education News, _January 29, 2018, https://www.idahoednews.org/news/flagship-universities-struggle-diversity-enrollment/
  9. Monica Anderson, “Blacks with College Experience More Likely to Say They Faced Discrimination,” _Pew Research Center, _July 27, 2016, https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2016/07/27/blacks-with-college-experience-more-likely-to-say-they-faced-discrimination/
  10. Tabbye M. Chavous, Angel Harris, Deborah Rivas, Lumas Helaire, and Laurette Green, “Racial Stereotypes and Gender in Context: African Americans at Predominantly Black and Predominantly White Colleges,” _Sex Roles: A Journal of Research, _51 no. 1-2 (2004): 1–16, https://doi.org/10.1023/B:SERS.0000032305.48347.6d
  11. Meifen Wei, Tsun-Yao Ku, and Kelly Yu-Hsin Liao, “Minority Stress and College Persistence Attitudes Among African American, Asian American, and Latino students: Perception of University Environment as a Mediator,” _Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology, _17, no. 2 (2011): 195–203, https://doi.org/10.1037/a0023359
  12. Kevin Cokley, Shannon McClain, Alicia Enciso, and Mercedes Martinez, “An Examination of the Impact of Minority Status Stress and Impostor Feelings on the Mental Health of Diverse Ethnic Minority College Students,” _Journal of Multicultural Counseling and Development, _41, no. 2 (2013): 82–95, https://doi.org/10.1002/j.2161-1912.2013.00029.x
  13. Shannon McClain, Samuel T. Beasley, Biana Jones, Olufunke Awosogba, Stacey Jackson, and Kevin Cokley, “An Examination of the Impact of Racial and Ethnic Identity, Impostor Feelings, and Minority Status Stress on the Mental Health of Black College Students,” Journal of Multicultural Counseling and Development, 44, no. 2 (2016): 101-117, https://doi.org/10.1002/jmcd.12040
  14. Tabbye M. Chavous, Deborah Rivas, Laurette Green, and Lumas Helaire, “Role of Student Background, Perceptions of Ethnic Fit, and Racial Identification in the Academic Adjustment of African American Students at a Predominantly White University,” _Journal of Black Psychology, _28, no. 3 (2002): 234-260, https://doi.org/10.1177/0095798402028003004
  15. Nathan Greenfield, “The Crisis in Black University Enrollment and Graduation,” _University World News, _November 6, 2021, https://www.universityworldnews.com/post.php?story=20211105110142162
  16. “UIdaho Student Population,” UnivStats, https://www.univstats.com/colleges/university-of-idaho/student-population/
  17. “University of Idaho Fall 2021 Student Enrollment Up 4.7% Largest Freshman Class in Five Years,” _University of Idaho News, _October 19, 2021, https://www.uidaho.edu/news/news-articles/news-releases/2021-fall/101921-enrollment
  18. Neil Bhutta, Andrew C. Chang, Lisa J. Dettling, and Joanne W. Hsu, “Disparities in Wealth by Race and Ethnicity in the 2019 Survey of Consumer Finances,” Feds Notes, September 28, 2020, https://www.federalreserve.gov/econres/notes/feds-notes/disparities-in-wealth-by-race-and-ethnicity-in-the-2019-survey-of-consumer-finances-20200928.htm
  19. “White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African-Americans; Fact Sheet: Black College Graduates and the Student Debt Gap,” Official African-American Education, https://sites.ed.gov/whblackeducation/files/2016/11/Black-College-Graduates-and-the-Student-Debt-Gap.pdf


Icon for the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License

Black Students Copyright © 2024 by Brody Gasper and Sydney Freeman Jr. is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

Share This Book