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XULA aims to up male enrollment with new high school retreat

Like most HBCUs, XULA has had a predominantly female student population for years—topping 75% in the most recent academic session.

(Xavier University of Louisiana)

From July 21-23 in New Orleans, Xavier University of Louisiana will host a group of male high school students for an on-campus retreat providing workshops, mentoring, and a chance for conditional acceptance into the historic Black Catholic school.

The Magnificent Male Weekend Experience, a collaboration between the Office of Admissions and Office for Student Affairs, is part of the school’s efforts to recruit young Black men for enrollment, following its reception of a targeted grant in 2019 from the Coca-Cola Foundation.

The event will also feature a wide swath of speakers and professionals representing Black male excellence for the assembled young scholars.

“The weekend will be filled with engaging activities and discussions, led by successful Black male leaders from various fields in and outside of XULA,” the school said of the event on social media.

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The experience will also provide opportunities for scholarships to the 98-year-old Catholic institution, which has been consistently ranked among the best historically Black colleges and universities in the country. It has also been noted as the most prolific producer of Black medical school graduates, even when compared to non-HBCU institutions.

XULA was founded by St. Katharine Drexel and the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament to provide quality higher education for African Americans in the Jim Crow South, even as other Black-serving schools were being pushed out of New Orleans.

According to recent data provided by the school, though it has remained predominantly Black (at approximately 80% for the 2022-23 academic year), more than three-quarters of its nearly 2,700-strong undergraduate student body is female. The imbalance follows a national trend for HBCUs, which have reported higher female enrollment than male in every academic year since 1976. The national average for female enrollment at HBCUs reached 64% in 2021, according to a recent report from the Department of Education.

XULA is working to address the disparity at their own institution, with the $250,000 Coca-Cola Foundation grant being used to support the Magnificent Male event, the university’s XScape Fund (which provides emergency financial assistance to students in need), and general scholarships. The leader of the foundation noted that the funding was a necessary step toward achieving equity.

“We know education opens the door to opportunities,” said then-president Helen Smith Price at the time of the grant announcement, herself an HBCU grad from Spelman College in Atlanta.

“The Coca-Cola system believes that it is critical to support the next generation of leaders and is proud to support educational opportunities at Xavier University through scholarship support.”

Though the pandemic curtailed much of the university’s programming in the years following the announcement, the Magnificent Male Weekend—originally announced alongside the grant—is now in action, open to all Black male sophomores and juniors with at least a 2.5 GPA and who participate in extracurricular activities.

Housing and meals will be provided for all students accepted to the retreat and interested parties can apply on the XULA website. The application deadline is Wednesday, May 31.

Nate Tinner-Williams is co-founder and editor of Black Catholic Messenger.

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