HBCUs Expand Reach As International Scholarships Transform Student-Athlete Rosters
North Carolina Central University international student Alejandra Vega says there's a surplus of opportunities that have come from studying at an HBCU
HBCUs are embracing diversity in their student athlete rosters by awarding scholarships to international students. NPR reports that North Carolina Central University, known for its tennis program, has granted a full scholarship to Alejandra Hidalgo Vega, a sophomore from Madrid, Spain, who has earned recognition as the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference rookie of the year.
In an NPR interview, Vega shared how this opportunity has transformed her life.
“I always wanted to play in the U.S. because I want to, like, get a scholarship and be able to, you know, be in a university here. I really enjoy being in HBCU — I have a lot of fun,” she said.
She admitted that she didn’t know much about African-American university culture at first, but nonetheless it has offered her a once of a kind opportunity to advance her sports and academic career. In Europe, collegiate sports aren’t regarded as highly as they are in the U.S., and Vega was shocked by the way that athletes are able to gain widespread attention from college sports.
Vega’s story isn’t as uncommon as one would think. According to WABE, NCAA reports over 24,000 international student-athletes are across all three divisions in the United States, an exponential jump from the last decade.
Historically Black Colleges and Universities have begun using third party recruiters in order to diversify their student body with athletic powerhouses. Alabama State University Head Tennis Coach Anuk Christiansz explained, “Tennis is an international sport, I would love to see more African Americans playing tennis and get to a level where they can play college tennis at the highest level…But they need to go to the next three, four levels so that they can be on par with everyone else.”
The head tennis coach at Tuskegee University agreed.
Gregory Green told the radio station, “We feel that there’s a lot of Black students that need the opportunity to go to college and play tennis. Those are the ones we recruit. And we want to keep it home. This is an HBCU, and we’re going to stick to that all the way through.”
Green added that it’s important the international students recruited are still helping the Black community in some way though. He added, “There’s no need for me to bring a kid in from Ireland or Switzerland or [Norway] because they’re not helping our community. And that’s one of the main missions of HBCUs was to provide our kids the opportunity to be great.”