Many young Americans will not believe that legal segregation existed in our society just until a few decades ago. And this segregation existed in the field of the higher education system as well. Before the Civil Rights Act of 1964, most universities and colleges would not enroll African American students completely or only in limited numbers. But the black students were able to pursue higher education through the Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU). HBCUs were established after the American Civil War to serve African Americans when segregation was widespread. These historically black colleges primarily serve African American students, but Americans of all races can pursue an HBCUs education. HBCUs are an integral part of American history and pillars of higher education among the African American community. In this guide, we will walk you through all aspects of the HBCUs – the top HBCUs, why HBCUs are important, history, the future, how to choose an HBCU, and much more.

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Understanding Historically Black Colleges and Universities

Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) are the backbones of higher education for African American students. Today, many African Americans get their higher education degrees from HBCUs. Many black students graduated from HBCUs and went onto becoming experts in their field of study. Many celebrities are part of the HBCU alums. Notable among the HBCU graduates are the Nobel prize winner, Toni Morrison, Oscar-winning actor Samuel L Jackson, famous American talk show host Oprah Winfrey, Vice-President Kamala Harris, and many more. In the modern-day, HBCU’s offer a wide variety of higher education programs – undergraduate degrees, graduate degrees including masters and doctoral programs, online degrees, specializations, etc. HBCUs are part of the great American story of resistance to segregation, and students will gain a lot by understanding all about HBCUs. In this section, we will dig deep into the historically black colleges.

What are HBCUs

According to the Higher Education Act of 1965, defines HBCUs as – “…any historically black college or university that was established before 1964, whose principal mission was, and is, the education of black Americans…”. In today’s world, the phrase ‘Historically Black Colleges and Universities’ represents a great pride story for the African American community and a community’s resilience denied higher education opportunities. These great institutions serve Americans of all races today. Many non-black students apply for HBCUs each year; many successfully enroll and graduate.

History of HBCUs

At the end of the US Civil War, slavery was officially abolished in the US, but racial segregation did not end. Segregation continued in education, where almost all African Americans were not allowed to pursue higher education. This resulted in the establishment of educational institutions, mainly in the south. Religious organizations assisted these educational institutions, known as Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). The first HBCU was established in 1837. The period after the end of the civil war saw many HBCUs being established. Many African Americans enrolled in these institutions and got their higher education. Today there are several HBCUs – a total of 101.

Importance of HBCUs

The HBCUs had historically provided educational opportunities for African Americans when others did not. They represent black people’s education and the upliftment of the historically oppressed and underrepresented community in the US. HBCUs bridge the gap in academic achievement that exists in the modern era and HBCUs are an integral part of black higher education experience in the US. Apart from historical, cultural, and other reasons, HBCUs also meet students’ needs from low-income and first-generation college students. Tuition rates at HBCUs are affordable compared to other universities, along with providing a best-value education.

Future of HBCUs

The future of HBCUs is bright, with a noticeable increase in the overall enrollment numbers. Many HBCUs like the Delaware State UniversityFlorida Memorial UniversityShaw UniversityVirginia State UniversitySouth Carolina State University, etc., are seeing a double-digit increase in enrollment. HBCUs have become a cultural fabric of the African American narrative, and they demonstrate the success of a community that did not have a head start as others. In the modern era, many HBCUs see increased interest from diverse students, not just black students. This proves that HBCUs’ future is bright, and they continue to teach us about our history and continue to produce students that will compete on a global scale.

HBCUs Myth Vs Reality

Myth # 1 – “HBCUs do not have good quality programs or degrees.”

This is absolutely false. HBCUs are accredited institutions, and they get the accreditation from the organizations as other universities. This attests that HBCUs are not different from other colleges and universities in terms of program quality. Many notable scholars got their degrees from HBCUs and have become world-class scientists, scholars, and have led successful careers.

Myth # 2 – “HBCUs are no longer needed.”

HBCUs continue to provide low-cost education to many African Americans and many students from the low-income situation. HBCUs are the only avenue for many students in many communities across our country. HBCUs serve as great educational institutions that overcome segregation and provide good quality education at lower costs to Americans of all races.

Myth # 3 – “HBCUs are only for Black Americans.”

As mentioned multiple times in this guide, HBCUs are for all Americans and not just black people.

Myth # 4 – “HBCU degrees are not valued.”

This is not true. HBCUs are as valued as any other degree. Accreditation plays a huge role in the valuation of any program. As long as the HBCU that you are applying to is accredited by a national or a regional accrediting body, you can be confident about the degree.

Myth # 5 – “HBCUs are expensive.”

This is not true at all. HBCUs are some of the most affordable colleges and universities in the country.

Myth # 6 – “HBCUs are just party schools.”

This is absolutely false. HBCUs are serious educational institutions that have produced many world-renowned subject matter experts.

How to Choose HBCU

Students who want to apply for higher education programs at HBCUs should do the same research and prep just as they would for any other university or college. Students consider several factors like accreditation, graduation rates, tuition costs, program quality & reputation, chosen field availability, etc. All of those factors apply to HBCUs also. Students should carefully all these factors and make a list of the schools that might fit their factors and apply.

It is important to note that HBCUs are open for Americans of all races. According to New York Times, as incomes and access to financial aid have risen, African Americans see more college opportunities. And HBCUs are seeing increase participation from other non-black students. Pew Research reports that in 2015, 17% of students enrolled at HBCUs are non-black students. So, students of all ethnicities need to consider HBCUs for their higher educational needs and take advantage of the affordable programs.

Here are the most common factors that students should consider before choosing an HBCU:

  • Accreditation
  • Graduate Rates
  • Tuition Costs
  • Availability of Scholarships or other forms of financial aid
  • Program quality & reputation
  • Availability of the desired field of education
  • Any assistance in placements or career guidance expertise
  • The flexibility of the program
  • School size
  • Location

Top HBCU – Details

There are more than a hundred HBCUs today. While many of them offer high-quality education, not all of them are the same. We have considered a large HBCU list of schools across the nation and created a list of HBCU Rankings. We considered creating these HBCU rankings based on the following factors: affordability, best value, program quality and reputation, accreditation, graduation rates, student satisfaction, etc. Considering all those parameters, here are the best HBCUs in the country:

<a href="">Top HBCUs</a>

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1. Hampton University

Hampton University is a private historically black research university out of Hampton, VA. Founded in 1868, Hampton is one of the most famous HBCUs in the country. Hampton currently serves more than 8,000 students and offers academics across various fields such as Engineering & Technology, Pharmacy, Nursing, Liberal Arts, Business, etc. Hampton also has a robust online program with the certificate, associate, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral programs. Here are some more highlights of the Hampton University HBCU:

  • Affordable tuition
  • Many online programs including master sin cybersecurity, sport administration, counseling.
  • Address – 200 William R. Harvey Way, Hampton, Virginia 23668
  • Graduation Rate – 60%
  • Graduation Rate – 60%

2. Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University

3. Howard University

4. Winston-Salem State University

5. North Carolina A & T State University

6. Tuskegee University

7. Xavier University of Louisiana

8. Claflin University

9. North Carolina Central University

10. Fisk University

11. Bowie State University

12. Morgan State University

13. Delaware State University

14. Clark Atlanta University

15. Elizabeth City State University

16. Jackson State University

17. Norfolk State University

18. Fayetteville State University

19. University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff

20. Southern University at New Orleans

Source – Integrated Post Secondary Education Data System & University Data
*Tuition rates are for in-state and per year. Program specific rates may apply.
**NA – data not available

FAQs about Historically Black Colleges and Universities

Frequently Asked Questions

What does HBCU stand for?

HBCU stand for Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

What is an HBCU?

Can white people go to HBCU?

How many HBCUs are there?

What was the first HBCU?

What is the best HBCU?

Additional Resources for African American Students

We hope that we have provided enough information about the Historically Black Colleges and Universities in the country. Thank you for visiting our guide about HBCUs. Before you, take note of a few other valuable resources that African American students could benefit from.

HBCU Lifestyle: HBCU Lifestyle was created to add value to the HBCU community by contributing relevant and thoughtful content to preserve the HBCU traditions.

HBCU Foundation: HBCU Foundation is not profit organization that increases access, retention, and graduation rates of all students.

HBCU Buzz: HBCU Buzz provides news, insights, and editorials from the Black College community. Established in 2011, HBCU Buzz provides many valuable resources to amplify the Black college experience.

The United Negro College Fund: The United Negro College Fund (UNCF) is the nation’s largest and most effective minority education organization. UNCF provides many resources, knowledge base, and scholarships.

List of Scholarships for African Americans: Visit our page with a comprehensive list of scholarships for African American students. You can also find scholarships for different majors, first-generation students, and much more on our African American scholarships page.

Diversity Scholarships by Online Masters Colleges: At Online Masters Colleges (OMC), we believe in diversity, and we value diversity. OMC administers a scholarship program to support this belief and value and encourage minority students to apply and pursue higher education. You can get the details on our diversity scholarships page.

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