JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - When Ashley Williams chose to go to Edward Waters College, she did so without hesitation.
"I followed a family legacy. My grandfather attended here. So did my Dad. It was kind of nature choice for me to come here," she explained.
Williams is one of millions around the country who stand by historical black colleges and universities -- or HBCU's. Dwindling enrollment, less federal funding and more college options are creating unique challenges though. In fact, New York Times data show that HBCUs with fewer than 1,000 students are especially vulnerable.
That includes EWC. Current enrollment is 850.
"The government support is there, but you never know what level it's going to be. Sometimes it's a higher level than you'd expect. Sometimes it's a lower level than you'd expect," Eric Jackson, vice president of Enrollment Services, said.
Targeted recruitment and scholarship opportunities are in the works for Edward Waters. There are 106 HBCUs left nationwide and the hope is to preserve every one.
"We definitely have school pride. Especially the Greek life. It's like a whole other world which a lot of people don't get to experience," sophomore Brice Farmer said.
Early indicators and research show enrollment numbers should be up at EWC in the fall. Improvements to the student center and campus organizations should help in that effort.