Sacramento State Unveils Plans for First-in-the-Nation Black Honors College

Sacramento State University will be home to the first Black Honors College designed for students interested in Black history, life, and culture.
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Margaret Attridge is a news reporter for BestColleges focusing on higher education news stories in California. She graduated from the University of Maryland, College Park in May 2022 with a BA in journalism and government and politics....
Published on February 14, 2024
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  • Sacramento State University announced plans to open the nation's first Black Honors College this fall.
  • The college will be an "institution within the institution" with its own faculty, staff, and learning spaces.
  • All students interested in Black history, life, and culture are encouraged to apply.

Sacramento State University announced its plans for a Black Honors College on campus, the first college or university to ever pursue an honors program specifically dedicated to supporting Black students' success.

Opening this fall, the Black Honors College at Sacramento State is designed for students interested in an "enhanced academic experience" focused on Black history, life, and culture, Sacramento State President Dr. Luke Wood told BestColleges.

"We are building something new, something that has never been done before. And we should think about that. How come no college has ever done this before? Does that say something about what people think about Black intelligence?" he said in an email.

'Designed to Support Black Excellence'

While the college is designed to serve Black and African American students, the program is open to all students, regardless of race, who are interested in Black history, life, and culture.

Applications for the college open Feb. 20 to incoming first-year students. Students with a 3.5 GPA or higher are encouraged to apply.

Those accepted into the program will have access to smaller classes taught by faculty "who have a demonstrated record of success in teaching Black students." The university has set aside 6,000 square feet of space for the honors college and is designating specific scholarships for students in the program.

Additionally, the program will have its own administrative leadership, staff, and faculty, operating as an "institution within the institution."

"Our community is full of many brilliant minds, and this is a college specifically designed to support Black Excellence," Wood said.

Finding a Home at Sacramento State

The idea for a college focused on supporting Black students' success was the result of a work group formed by the California State University (CSU). It was tasked with developing a plan to "improve outcomes for Black students," including declining enrollment, retention, and graduation rates.

Wood, who served on the committee in his former position as vice president of student affairs at San Diego State University, said the recommendations the work group found — including creating welcoming spaces, developing culturally relevant curriculum, and investing in Black faculty — were used as a scaffold for the honors college.

"The report detailed the fact that many colleges and universities have systematically failed Black students in terms of climate, retention, graduation rates, and labor market outcomes," he said. "This is an opportunity to do something that does not exist elsewhere."

Wood says the university's campus demographics, along with its diverse administration, make it the ideal candidate to establish the first Black Honors College in the country.

Sacramento State has the largest population of Black and African American students in the 23-campus CSU system and more Black and African American students than all but one of the University of California campuses.

"We have an environment that is committed to diversity and student success with numerous faculty and staff who care," Wood said. "We can create a special environment in a way that no other university can."

Diversity Efforts Underway in California

​​The Black Honors College might be the first of its kind, but California is also trying to address the need for dedicated academic programs for Black students.

The Golden State does not have any historically Black colleges or universities (HBCUs), although California is home to one historically Black graduate institution: Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science.

Both the University of California and California Community College systems also have relationships with HBCUs, although neither has a dedicated academic program geared to Black students.

Additionally, San Francisco Mayor London Breed is trying to get HBCUs to open satellite campuses downtown, hosting programming this summer alongside local universities with the goal of HBCUs expanding to physical locations in the Bay Area.

Wood said interest in the Black Honors College has been "overwhelming," with students, families, and educators reaching out to be a part of the college.

"They recognize that this is history in the making and they want to be part of something special," he said. "We are creating a framework that will influence the future of how higher education is offered to Black and African American students. We expect that Colleges and Universities across the nation will follow."