When Michael Hill needed a doctoral program with the flexibility to let him continue working full-time as a Lincoln University administrator, he chose an online degree program from another institution.
With such firsthand experience, Hill is now trying to start an online degree program at Lincoln. It’s one of many historically black colleges and universities that have yet to enter a booming market for online instruction that could be particularly lucrative for black colleges.
Blacks comprised about 12 percent of total enrollment in higher education in 2007 but made up 21 percent of the student population at for-profit institutions—many of which offer online degree programs, according to an American Council on Education report released this year.
Tom Joyner, a syndicated radio host with a largely black audience, also sees the online-instruction market’s potential. The longtime booster and philanthropist for historically black colleges has invested about $7 million to start HBCUsOnline.com, an educational services venture run by his son.
“My father noticed very early on that a lot of the students doing the online education boom were members of his listening audience,” said Tom Joyner Jr. “Those listeners could be better served by HBCUs.”
While black colleges only enroll about 11 percent of all black students, their traditions and legacies still resonate in the African-American community. It makes sense that those schools would want to recapture students from for-profit institutions such as the University of Phoenix, said Richard Garrett, managing director of the consulting firm Eduventures.
“This is, to us, an expected and logical trend,” Garrett said. “It’s ambitious, the timing is right. There’s a lot of opportunity there.”
The Sloan Consortium for online instruction estimates about one-third of the country’s 4,500 universities offer online degree programs. But only about 10 percent of the nation’s 105 historically black colleges do, according to the White House Initiative on historical black institutions. (Larger percentages offer online instruction without degrees.)