Rising from an historic environment of legal segregation, Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) were established prior to 1964 with the intention of offering accredited, high-quality education to African American students across the United States. These schools do, however, admit students of all races. As of January 2016, students can choose from 99 HBCUs across America, including public and private schools, 2-year and 4-year schools, and professional schools.
The best historically black colleges for 2016 were determined by considering each school’s academic standards, affordability, outcomes, and student support. The following school profiles explore the legacies, present successes and ongoing initiatives of each institution.
Howard University counts each of its distinguished faculty among its on-campus population of the largest concentration of black scholars anywhere in the world. Here, 93% of students are African-American. Introductory Afro-American studies courses are required in all undergraduate curriculum, whether pursuing a traditional major or as part of the school's renowned Afro-American and African studies program. The university founded Omega Psi Phi and Phi Beta Sigma, two of the nation’s leading black fraternities; the campus is also home to Howard University TV, the first African-American owned public TV station in the U.S.
Howard's MBA program was recently named the "greatest opportunity for minority students" by Princeton Review
The school has awarded more than 100,000 degrees since 1867
Spelman is the nation’s oldest historically black college for women, transforming into a leader among educational institutions for women since starting out as a Baptist female seminary in 1881. Today, Spelman offers a variety of majors to its enrollment of more than 2,100 students; popular topics include biological and biomedical sciences, English, physical science, psychology and social sciences. The college is home to more than 70 student organizations centered on academic achievement, personal enrichment opportunities and Greek life, including historically black sororities Alpha Kappa Alpha and Delta Sigma Theta.
The college reports a 76% graduation rate average over the past six years
Hampton has earned an esteemed reputation among top HBCUs for its commitment to both African-American education and the multicultural community. The Hampton campus is the historical site of the majestic Emancipation Oak, under which classes for freed men and women were held between 1861 and 1863; the tree was also the setting for the first Southern reading of Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation. On campus today, 90% of current enrollment is African-American. Among Hampton’s many unique attributes is the establishment of the Skin of Color Research Institute for research and treatment of skin diseases afflicting people of color.
Programs at Hampton are designed to promote progressive education
The School of Business was named the best department in the nation in 2005 by the National Urban Leagues' Black Executive Exchange Program
A premiere science and engineering university known for facilitating groundbreaking research, Tuskegee University has built a reputation as one of the top producers of African-American aerospace science engineers in the U.S. Tuskegee’s is the only campus in the U.S. to be declared a National Historic Site by the U.S. Congress since it was founded by Booker T. Washington in 1881. The university’s roughly 3,000 students are active in a variety of student organizations on campus, including the Marching Crimson Piper Band, the National Society of Black Engineers and college chapter of the NAACP.
The only HBCU with a fully accredited College of Veterinary Medicine and doctorate offered; Tuskegee produces over 75% of worldwide African-American veterinarians
The nursing baccalaureate program was first in Alabama and one of the oldest in the U.S.
Although Xavier was originally founded in 1915 as a high school for African Americans and Native Americans, the school added a four-year university in 1925. Today, Xavier continues its universal mission of promoting leadership- and service-based education initiatives. Current enrollment totals roughly 3,100 students, 73% of which are black and 27% are Catholic. All undergraduates study core topics that include 66 combined credits in African-American studies, natural sciences and theology. According to the U.S. Department of Education, Xavier is first in the nation in terms of producing African-American graduates with dual undergraduate degrees in biological/life sciences and the physical sciences.
One of only two pharmacy schools in Louisiana; among the top three producers of Doctor of Pharmacy degrees to African-Americans in the nation
Florida A&M was originally called the State Normal College for Colored Students when it was founded in 1887; the name of this land-grant university and research institution has changed, but its commitment to African-American education has remained. FAMU’s student population of more than 11,000 is 90% Afro-American, hailing from over 70 countries including Egypt, Trinidad, the Bahamas, Jamaica and Brazil. Among numerous efforts to sustain and strengthen the local economy in Florida through the school’s Center for Plasma Science and Technology (CePaST) and Sustainability Institute, part of FAMU’s strategic plan includes aspirations to increase African-American student involvement in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) programs.
FAMU offers 54 bachelor's degrees, 29 master's degrees, three professional degrees and 12 doctoral programs
Most popular undergraduate programs at FAMU are business administration, biology, criminal justice and allied health
North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University leads the nation among engineering- and agriculture degree-granting institutions for African-Americans. Founded in 1891 as a land-grant institute, NC A&T was at the core of the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s. Esteemed alumni include The Greensboro Four, who staged the nation's first sit-in, and activist Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr. Historically black fraternities and sororities, including Alpha Phi Alpha and Alpha Kappa Alpha, are among the popular Greek life options on campus; students also participate in large numbers in the NCAA Division I Aggies team and the Blue and Gold Marching Machine.
Home to enrollment of more than 10,000 and more than 2,000 employees
NC A&T is classified by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching as a doctoral/research university
Originally an African Baptist church in Maryland offering teacher training and general education to black citizens, Bowie State eventually expanded to provide higher education for teachers and other scholars interested in the liberal arts. Today, the home of the Bulldogs offers 23 undergraduate majors and 35 graduate and certification programs. Staying true to its origins, Bowie is now recognized as a leader among education-degree-granting institutions for African-American students. Total enrollment comprises 4,456 undergrads and 1,239 graduate/professional students.
Bowie State offers 22 undergraduate majors and 21 graduate programs
Bowie is among the top 20 HBCUs for producing Peace Corps volunteers
Tougaloo College exists today as a symbol of freedom and independence for African-American students and citizens, on the site of the former John Boddie Plantation, a relic of slavery and black oppression. Tougaloo approaches education with a broad view in mind, requiring students to complete a general education as well as specialized training in their area of focus. Many prominent professionals in Mississippi are proud alums of Tougaloo. In fact, 40% of the African-American physicians and dentists in Mississippi are Tougaloo alum, as are 35% of the state's African-American educators and school administrators.
Over 60% of graduates enter graduate or professional school immediately after graduation
70% of faculty hold terminal degrees in their respective fields
The programming at WSSU has evolved alongside the economic needs of Winston-Salem, transitioning from tobacco and textiles in early years to healthcare and finance today. Although industry needs may have changed since the founding of this public institution in 1892, WSSU now serves four primary areas of education: health and services, science and technology, teaching and learning and financial services. Of a total enrollment of approximately 6,100 students, 72% of students are African-American and 70% are female. WSSU's "enter to learn, depart to serve" motto reflects the universal service-based mission of its education initiatives. Among many unique characteristics, WSSU graduates the third-largest population of nurses in North Carolina and houses Diggs Gallery, one of the nation's best collections of contemporary African-American art.
WSSU ranks highest in UNC college system for job placement for graduates
WSSU offers more than 100 student organizations on campus
Founded in 1867, Morehouse College, a private liberal arts institution for men, has traditionally graduated more black men than any other school. Morehouse promotes leadership and service through three primary program areas: business administration and economics; humanities and social sciences; and science and mathematics. Visionaries Martin Luther King Jr. and Spike Lee are among the many notable Morehouse alumni. The mission of Morehouse includes adopting the unique responsibility of educating students about black history and culture through special programs and scholarship opportunities, including the Rugari Scholarship Program, which provides full tuition to five students from the African Great Lakes Region.
Morehouse celebrates its 150th anniversary in 2017
Students at Morehouse represent more than 40 states and 14 countries
The Seventh-day Adventist Church may have founded Oakwood in 1896 on a former slave plantation site, however its faith in the power of equality was strong. Today, the school's mission continues to promote faith-based education that prepares students for service-based lives. Oakwood’s enrollment of nearly 2,000 may choose from undergraduate degrees in one of five schools and participate in extracurriculars in almost 30 clubs hosted on campus. Through its nationally recognized science programs, Oakwood is fifth in the nation for producing undergraduate black students applying to medical school.
Oakwood is host of the annual Camp Meeting for the South Central Conference of Seventh-day Adventists since 1946
The university campus at Oakwood is considered a historical landmark in Huntsville
As a historically black university in Southwest Georgia, Albany was founded in 1903 as the Albany Bible and Manual Training Institute to educate young African-Americans. Today, the school strives to meet the needs of its diverse student body through progressive programs in teaching, creativity, research and service. Among its core institutional values is a "students first" concept, helping to promote a holistic approach to student education and development. The university is a national leader in programs including teacher education, business and the sciences, among others, all with a strong foundation in the liberal arts.
Albany State offers 34 undergraduate and 17 graduate degree programs
The school has graduated more than 14,000 students since 1903
Claflin University is a pioneering institution in South Carolina, as the first higher education facility in the area to admit students regardless of race or religious affiliation. Methodist missionaries in 1869 founded Claflin to educate recently freed men and women and prepare them to live full lives. The small liberal arts college that stands on Claflin’s campus today is home to nearly 1,800 undergrads and 60 graduate students. 92% of undergraduates were black or African American as of 2012, including students from several African countries. The Claflin campus hosts a number of business-oriented student organizations and social clubs, including a local chapter of the National Association of Black Accountants, as well as the Students in Free Enterprise (SIFE) and its Phi Beta Lambda chapter.
2014 marked the 20th anniversary of Claflin president, Dr. Henry N. Tisdale
Claflin has been an institution of academic excellence for 142 years
Established in 1988, Clark Atlanta is a private, not-for-profit university affiliated with the United Methodist Church. Programs in 38 unique subjects are offered through four primary schools: Arts and Sciences; Business Administration; Education; and Social Work. In its short history, Clark Atlanta has secured numerous points of pride among its HBCU counterparts, including its designation as one of the largest institutions in the United Negro College Fund and the only university in the Atlanta University Center, a consortium of 8,000 primarily African-American scholars.
Clark Atlanta's enrollment totals 3,485; 74% is female and 26% is male
Initially founded as a school for training in religion, North Carolina Central University was the first African-American public liberal arts school in the U.S. Driven by a philosophy rooted in "service and truth," NCCU’s eight schools offer 78 degree programs in 146 concentrations, including 39 master’s and professional programs, as well as a doctoral degree. 78% of NCCU students are African-American and 12% are white; total enrollment is nearly 8,000. As home to one of North Carolina's leading collections of works by African-American artists, the NCCU art museum is a point of pride for both the school and the state.
Popular undergraduate degrees at NCCU include criminal justice, family and consumer science and business administration
The school hosts membership in eight honors societies
Jackson State is the definitive measure of African-American culture in MIssissippi. To continue to promote the study of African-American heritage, the university offers dozens of courses in various disciplines that explore black culture in-depth, including a philosophy class titled "Black Church and Black Theology" and a sociology course entitled "Black Female and the Family." Out of a total enrollment of around around 9,000 students, 90% are black. On campus, the Margaret Walker Center encompasses an archives system and museum space to showcase artifacts and exhibits of African-American life and history.
JSU is home to the award-winning marching band the Sonic Boom of the South
JSU is the fourth-largest institution of higher learning in Mississippi
3rd Floor, J.S. Clark Adm. Building, P.O. Box 9374
Baton Rouge, LA70813
The Southern University and A&M College System, encompassing five Louisiana campuses, is the only HBCU system in the U.S. Offering a variety of programs for undergraduates, graduate students and professionals, the Southern University System is a major producer of African-American graduates working in engineering, technology, business, computer science, nursing and mathematics in Louisiana. In addition to its main campus in Baton Rouge, the Southern University System has expanded to include locations in New Orleans and Shreveport, as well as the Southern University Law Center and the Southern University Agricultural Research and Extension Center (SUAREC).
Founded in 1880 in New Orleans with 12 students and five faculty members
The university’s 385 acres of state-of-the-art agriculture facilities include the SU Livestock Show
As of 1891, the future Delaware State was a land-grant institute named the State College for Colored Students. Today the school serves a total of around 4,500 students, including nearly 3,900 undergraduate; 72% of the student body is African-American. Of 64 bachelor's, 22 master's and five doctoral degrees offered across 20 academic departments at Delaware State, the university is home to a unique Africana Studies program designed for undergraduates. The DSU campus hosts numerous chapters of historically black fraternities and sororities governed by the National Pan-Hellenic Council, Inc., fondly named the "divine nine."
DSU's campus encompasses 356 acres of pedestrian grounds with over 50 buildings and four outdoor athletic fields
There are over 100 student clubs and organizations offered on campus
Elizabeth City State University originated as a teaching college to train black teachers. Throughout its evolution since being founded in 1891, the university leads North Carolina in regards to graduating educators. Today, ECSU offers 34 undergraduate degrees and four master's, providing exceptional programming that is consistently ranked among the top HBCU programs nationwide. Total enrollment of roughly 2,400 includes 77% African-American and 16% white students.
Dr. Stacey Franklin Jones became the first female leader of the university in 2014
The school's first Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education was awarded in 1939
Norfolk became an independent school in 1969, growing into its status as one of the largest HBCUs in the U.S. since being founded in 1935. Current undergraduate enrollment at this state-sponsored liberal arts school is about 6,000 students, all of whom are embraced for their diversity and individuality regardless of culture or lifestyle. Noted for its science and technology programs, student organizations at Norfolk represent the National Society of Black Engineers and Black Data Processing Associates, among others. Greek life at Norfolk includes the "divine nine" fraternities and sororities governed by the National Pan-Hellenic Council, Inc.
NSU offers a three-year customizable program in interdisciplinary studies
The school also provides $171 million in annual economic impact to surrounding Virginia region
Prairie View A&M holds the dual distinction in Texas of being the second-oldest public institution of higher learning as well as the first state-supported school to admit African Americans. Since building a foundation in agriculture, mechanical arts, engineering and natural sciences programs, Prairie View A&M now offers 32 master's and doctoral degrees from eight schools and colleges. PVAMU’s total student body of about 8,200 includes 1,500 graduate students; 86% of overall enrollment is African American. The spirit and campus culture of the school is best embodied by the Marching Storm marching band, which uses drum majors, majorettes and halftime pageants to continue this historically black college tradition.
5,970 degrees were awarded by Prairie View over the last five years
Prairie View was designated "an educational asset accessible by all Texans" through agreement with the U.S. Department of Education Office of Civil Rights in 2000
Founded shortly after the Civil War ended in 1866, Fisk University has shaped black students to become leaders in academic scholarship as well as their communities for multiple generations. Fisk alumni are as diverse as they are talented, ranging from author and activist W.E.B. Du Bois to Mathew Knowles, CEO of World Music Entertainment. Fisk is the fourth-highest college or university in Tennessee as well as Nashville’s oldest institution of higher learning. With a small enrollment of just over 600 students, the student-faculty ratio is a mere 11:1. To satisfy CORE curriculum, students must choose one course from among many that explore African-American literature and African history.
The Fisk campus was designated a National Historic District in 1978
The university is home to the first chapter of the Phi Beta Kappa Society on a predominantly black campus
The university now known as UM Eastern Shore has blossomed since its humble beginnings as home to a classroom of only one teacher and nine students in 1886. Today, an emphasis on learning, leadership and success-centered strategy goes hand-in-hand with programs designed to promote diversity, tolerance and freedom of expression. 70% of students on campus are black, contributing in part to a total undergraduate enrollment of about 3,500. UM Eastern Shore counts among its accomplishments numerous degrees offered in 26 unique disciplines including African-American studies, as well the recent creation of the African Journal of Criminology and Justice Studies.
UMES added 17 new degree-granting programs to its academic roster over the last decade
UMES campus is home to over 600 acres, 28 major buildings and 41 other units
Founded in 1867 as the Centenary Biblical Institute by the Baltimore Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church, Morgan State University was renamed in 1890. The modern-day mission of Morgan State has expanded into research since its origins in training young men in ministry. The student body of more than 6,000 are enrolled in a variety of programs ranging from baccalaureate to doctorate. Known for its focus in science and engineering, the university is responsible for granting a large percentage of degrees to African-Americans across the state, especially in these disciplines.
Morgan State awards more bachelor's degrees to African-American students than any other campus in Maryland
New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania are the largest sources of students outside of Maryland
Seven black citizens of Fayetteville started the university in 1867, destined to become the first state-supported institution committed to the education of North Carolina African-Americans. Today the university continues to support diversity and underrepresented populations as part of its original mission established by its founding community. The school is responsible for graduating one of the largest populations of black students in North Carolina and is 54th among institutions granting bachelor's degrees to African-Americans. Of a total enrollment of about 6,200 students, 65% are black.
The Fayetteville Criminal Justice Program is the only program in the state to receive ACJS certification
FSU students rank 95th percentile in the Collegiate Learning Assessment
Founded in 1875 by former slave William Hooper Councill as the Huntsville Normal School, Alabama A&M has evolved over the years to incorporate teaching, research, public service and extension programs. Today the serene campus setting that has come to be known fondly as "the Hill" is just minutes away from the school’s original downtown location. AAMU’s student body of over 5,000 hails from 44 states and 11 countries worldwide. The university offers over 41 baccalaureate degrees across five undergraduate schools, 23 master’s and four doctoral degrees.
Alabama A&M is home to over 93 student clubs and organizations
75% of students participate in community service projects
Virginia State University was founded in 1882 as the first four-year institution in the nation to offer full support from the state for black students. The university promotes student-centered learning, blending instruction and research with extension and outreach programming. Diversity is celebrated at VSU by staff, faculty and students through a supportive environment that values uniqueness. Greek life is popular on the VSU campus, which supports all of the "divine nine" fraternities and sororities governed by the National Pan-Hellenic Council Inc.
VSU offers 55 baccalaureate and master's degree programs, two doctoral programs and three certificates
VSU's 236-acre campus houses 416-acre agriculture research facility, 16 dormitories and 17 academic buildings
Alcorn State has fulfilled its mission to become one of the premiere comprehensive land-grant institutions in the U.S. The university continues to celebrate diversity and promote academic growth through a variety of competitive research and cultural programs. Alcorn’s campus is home to nearly 4,000 students, with offerings in academic programs ranging from baccalaureate- to specialist-level and more than 40 available clubs and organizations. The university’s multicultural student body represents in excess of 65 counties, 30 states and 18 foreign countries.
Alcorn has produced generations of successful alumni in education, medicine, law, business and professional athletics
The school emphasizes student support and faculty mentorship for all programs
Alcorn is a land-grant agricultural institution.
Information & Data
The first HBCUs were established in 1837, more than two decades before the abolition of slavery in America. 1837 marked the first year free blacks were educated and trained as teachers at The Institute of Colored Youth, founded by Quaker philanthropist Richard Humphries. By 1902, white philanthropists, church leaders and free blacks had established more than 85 similar institutions for the purpose of educating the next generation of former-slave families. HBCUs of this nature were the only standardized form of higher education for African-Americans for more than fifty years, until the U.S. Supreme Court outlawed state-sponsored segregation in education in 1954.
The landscape of higher education has evolved alongside continued efforts in education-equality. The designation of HBCUs in the U.S. is crucial to maintaining universal standards in higher education and providing accessibility to all students, regardless of race. Nationally endorsed initiatives include Champions of Change, the National Association For Equal Opportunity in Higher Education (NAFEO) and the HBCU All-Star Students Program, among others designed to empower minority students and inspire equal opportunity in academic scholarship across the country.
Enrollment of African-American students in colleges and universities in the U.S. between 1976 and 2012 has increased, according to the NCES. The percentage of black students in higher education rose from 10% to 15% during this time; as of fall 2013, a larger number of black students were enrolled in two-year post-baccalaureate programs (37%) than four-year post-secondary degree-granting programs (30%) or two-year post-secondary degree-granting programs (28%).
Reports also suggest that black students nearing college-enrollment-age are among the highest percentages of children under age 18 living in poverty in the U.S., however those who are able to obtain an associate degree or higher will see increased job opportunities upon graduation. Generally, associate degree-holders and bachelor’s degree-holders earned a median salary of $37,500 and $48,500 in 2013, respectively, compared to $30,000 for those holding only a high school credential. As enrollment trends previously mentioned show an increase among black graduate students, proportionate income also increased in 2013, with black young adults holding at least a master’s degree earning a median annual salary of $54,500.
Historically, graduates of a college degree are qualified to earn a higher wage and may also excel in professional and personal opportunities over less-educated individuals. Top HBCU programs are designed to combine academic support, real-world skills and vocational training tailored to the needs of African-American students. HBCUs in the U.S. continue to drive initiatives to confront educational challenges and to increase higher education opportunities in the black community. Many schools have expanded recruitment and financial aid efforts for black students to encourage enrollment, as well as increased support services to promote full matriculation at their respective institutions.