A Black Male Graduates High School with a 4.5 GPA. And Isn’t Going to an HBCU?

Ishmale Powell is headed to the University of North Carolina – Charlotte this fall, bringing with him a 4.5 GPA and a bunch of news headlines as one of Greensboro, NC’s most talented academic products.

From Because of Them We Can:

Powell, who applied for several scholarships, has yet to receive additional funding beyond “$3000 in Pell Grant and $6000 from the U-N-C system for his first year of college,” according to WFMY. In spite of his financial setback, Powell is still determined to start college in the fall, creating a GoFundMe campaign to raise the remaining amount needed for tuition and fees. 

To help with costs, his father, Shawn Powell, who lives on a fixed disability income, has decided to move to Charlotte so that the young scholar can save money on housing and live with him while pursuing his college education. 

Some HBCU advocates are calling for institutions to step in with counteroffers to help Powell avoid debt, and have a richer academic experience.

Shawn A. Hall on Twitter

@HBCUDigest @Becauseofthem 4/ I don’t know him and he didn’t ask me to help. When you see a house on 🔥, no one should HAVE to ask u to help

There’s a whole lot of backstory that we do not, and probably will not know about Powell and his HBCU prospects. Was he targeted by HBCUs and turned down admission or scholarship offers? Were his parents and advisors counseling him about HBCUs, or advising against them? Does Charlotte have a program that meets his desire to stay in North Carolina, to pursue a specific career path or both?

But here are the facts we know. For now, Powell is going to a PWI and has to find a way to pay for it. Black colleges are fighting bad narratives about the amount and profile of students we do admit, fueled by stories and stereotypes about lost paperwork, lack of scholarship resources, and increasing disinterest among high achieving students in HBCUs.

Is it too late to make Powell and his family an offer to steal him away from Charlotte? Would it help for an HBCU to come in at the 11th hour with an offer which even if accepted, underscores another stereotype about our schools being late to the party in targeting and attracting students like Powell? How many HBCUs believe that they can compete for students like him, especially against increased minority student recruiting interest from PWIs and mutual love from black students?

All questions that need answers, especially since we know that statistically, nine out of every ten black students in this country look at HBCUs, at least academically, as a Black Maybe.

Cue the music.


  1. Why must he choose an HBCU?? Parents don’t have to instill predominately black colleges/universities are ‘not good’ or ‘the best thing smoking’. It’s about choices…we all make our own and everyone is not going to be happy with the decision. If YOU are happy with it, then keep on keeping on. It’s odd that people get offended because a person doesn’t choose the same option as them.

  2. There are a lot of factors that go into which campuses students choose. Every choice has impact beyond their lives. Tuition revenue not spent at an HBCU means fewer resources to create jobs for black workers, for black executives, and for research benefiting black people. It is lessened economic impact for the black communities where black colleges are stationed. And for students choosing PWIs, increased likelihood that they will have experiences which don’t validate their culture or identity, and increased likelihood that they will not donate to HBCUs.

    Our universe as individual black people depends on these choices which extend beyond our personal orbits.

  3. There’re simply too many things I don’t know to comment substantively on this particular case. Suffice it to say, I believe the 4 MOST important factors involved in choosing a college include: fit, availability of intended major, support services offered, and financial assistance awarded.

  4. I will donate to Rachel Dolezal before I donate to him. Fighting to be accepted to a school that won’t even give you enough money with a 4.5 GPA is stupid and weak.

  5. I have a daughter who could’ve graduated early with a 4.3. She had all credits plus some by the end of her first semester junior year. When we did research we found that many colleges did not encourage early graduation. So she held off and will graduate this year with free college credits in addition to her AP coursework. We figured we’d take advantage of our school district paying for the courses at the community college as a dually enrolled student. She has received plenty of emails and letters from PWI’s and only one HBCU-Spelman. That is what I find sad and I graduated from an HBCU!

  6. About two weeks ago Ishmale started a GoFundMe account in an effort to secure the balance of his tuition. Today he reached his goal after starting off yesterday with $1500 in donations. He also added a picture of what appears to be a conversation about him that included a Morehouse admissions office staffer requesting that he reach out. Since he posted the picture I assume he is interested in entertaining an offer.

    It seems that he went through the college application process on his own. He has stated that his teachers were not supportive of his decision to graduate early due to his immaturity and basically left him flapping in the wind. Who knows what 15 year old reasoning went into his decision to apply to UNC Charlotte of all places.

    Now that he has support there sky is the limit for him.

  7. You make an excellent point regarding graduatiing early and the whole skippjng grades issue – there are instances where it is not adventageous

  8. My son graduated from Morehouse & has a ton of student loan debt . He played football & that offset some of the cost .If my son played football in state he would not be in so much debt. Just saying .

  9. A lot of questions would have to be answered, before I could provide a true response to the question.

    Nevertheless, I do have a standard enrollment management question. What are his ACT/ SAT scores? GPA was mentioned numerous times, but not test scores. Just curious.

  10. Did he apply to any HBCU’s and the scholarships available and if not he didn’t want to attend. UNCC is a state support institution and ge had to apply and probably not recruited. Education is about choice.

  11. people need to choose their own paths for their goals and dreams. Shame on some of you for your negative responses on what this young man chooses to do with his future. Just because he is black.. doesn’t mean he has to go to an HBCU. I am a proud HBCU Alum. If this young man wants to take this road to reach his dreams and goals.. i will pray he will reach them whether he goes to a HBCU or not!

  12. you should be ashamed of your self! let this young man go on his own journey.. I swear.. some of your HBCU alums have to much racial hate in your hearts!

  13. That’s not true. I have a degree from an hbcu and 2 from pwis. They were 2 different experiences. I wish him well, however it would have been nice if someone had explained and helped hime explore all opportunities. His guidance counselors weren’t open minded.

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