COLUMBIA, S.C. — When Sarabi Smith toured South Carolina State University's campus, she knew it was going to be home for the next four years.
"It's very family oriented over there. So it's like even though I'm away from home, I still feel like I'm at home," said Smith.
Smith applied to ten schools and eventually narrowed the list down to three schools: Howard University, North Carolina A&T and South Carolina State.
For Smith, SC State's location close to home and affordability were huge drawing points, but she said attending an HBCU (Historically Black College or University) was a top priority.
"I think going to an HBCU and seeing a lot more people, black people, and I get to learn more about my culture and my history, and also learn more about myself, said Smith.
Smith's decision reflects a trend among South Carolina's Historically black colleges and universities who are drawing a new wave of students.
This fall, South Carolina State university is welcoming one if its largest freshman classes. Vice-President of enrollment management Dr. Manicia Finch says nearly 800 students have completed the admission process- double the number from last year.
"This will be the most diverse class in the history of South Carolina State, coming from various states," said Finch.
At Claflin University Interim Vice-President for enrollment management Reynolda Brown said applications and enrollment are soaring.
"We are trending 37% up from this time last year" said Brown. "I think that they're seeing the value in attending HBCU, both from the academic side, and from the cultural aspect of it."
Other HBCU's in the midlands like Benedict College and Allen University have also seen similar trends. Dr. Finch attributes the rise in students to increased funding, notoriety, and new recruitment efforts.
"A lot more students are choosing HBCUs, but also because of the strong academic programs and the great support system that we put in place for students not just to come but also to be successful," said Finch.
Smith said her generation is making history and she's proud to be a part of it.
"We have like future football players, NFL players, basketball players, like so many things, doctors, lawyers," said Smith. "So with my generation doing that, it can turn into something so beautiful."
In March the White House announced funding to HBCU's. All eight of South Carolina's HBCU's are receiving a combined $100 million in federal funding.