What Is the White House’s HBCU Scholar Program?

The White House named its ninth cohort of HBCU Scholars, and it's the largest yet. Here's a rundown of the program and how to apply.
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Published on August 10, 2023
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The White House began its Initiative on Advancing Educational Equity, Excellence, and Economic Opportunity through historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) in 2014. Each year, a cohort of students is selected to represent their communities as White House ambassadors.

This year's cohort was announced last week, and it's the largest since the program's inception — 102 HBCU Scholars from 29 states, representing 70 institutions.

"Our 2023 HBCU Scholars are talented students who embody the culture of excellence and inclusion championed by our nation's Historically Black Colleges and Universities," U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona said in a press release.

What Is the HBCU Scholar Program?

The HBCU Scholar Program works closely with the Executive Office of the President to eliminate barriers facing HBCUs and provide students the highest quality of education. The goal is to help develop the next generation of leaders.

The 2023 cohort was selected from a pool of 300 applicants. In addition to representing their respective universities, the HBCU Scholars will also serve as ambassadors of the White House Initiative on HBCUs and the Department of Education. Scholars will participate in professional development and identify specific issues HBCUs face and improvement methods.

The HBCU Scholar Program partners with NASA, and scholars will have the opportunity to collaborate and develop ideas to use technology that can improve their campuses and communities. Scholars will present their proposals in person at the NASA Space Center in Maryland during the 2023 National HBCU Week Conference held Sept. 24-28 in Virginia.

How Do You Become a White House HBCU Scholar?

Lovette Mba is a 2023 White House HBCU Scholar and senior at Langston University, Oklahoma's only HBCU. The business management major told BestColleges how she became a scholar.

Mba learned about the program through LinkedIn, and she said the program aligned with her professional goals of community revitalization and economic development.

The application requires:

  • A personal statement
  • Your official transcript
  • A letter of recommendation from a professor

However, Mba said you also need a signature from your institution's president. She already knew hers from working in the president's office during her sophomore year. Overall, Mba said the program is selective, so finding advantages like this will help.

"Only two students per institution can be chosen, so depending on your school, it may be more competitive," Mba said. "It wouldn't hurt to form a relationship with your university's president so they feel more confident endorsing you."

Mba also has quite the resume, so building up your experience in your community can help you get into the program.

She is a McCabe Scholar who is involved in the Student Government Association Senate, the African Student Association, and the National Association of Negro Women. Additionally, she works with community-focused organizations such as Rebuild the Block, Run the Future, and Black Girl Ventures.

Mba shared that the HBCU Scholars will travel to Arlington, Virginia, for the annual National HBCU Week Conference in September. They will also participate in monthly master classes with professionals from various disciplines and regional events.

Why Should I Become an HBCU Scholar?

Ishmia Black, a Philander Smith College biology major with aspirations of becoming a pediatric physician assistant, asserts to BestColleges that being an HBCU Scholar is an opportunity to better understand how HBCU institutions and the political world merge.

She applied to the program to learn more about different areas that may need to be fixed and help research ways to help fix them.

If you're focused academically, involved in campus life, and concerned about your community, you might be a good fit for the HBCU Scholar Program. Consider the opportunity to visit the White House, be recognized as an ambassador, and engage in professional and personal development. You'll also get the opportunity to connect with other HBCU students from around the country.

While there's no fee to apply, nor is a stipend a part of this program, the experiences could open doors to elevate your future. Applications for the 2024 program will be available in the spring with a March 31 deadline and can be found on the Department of Education website.

Mba offered the following suggestion for students who might be interested:

"Your university wants to see you win, so don't be afraid to pursue opportunities that will shape your future for success," Mba said.

Meet the Scholars

Portrait of Lovette Mba, 2023 White House HBCU Scholar

Lovette Mba, 2023 White House HBCU Scholar

Lovette Mba is a senior at Langston University studying business management. She is also involved in the Student Government Association, African Student Association, and the National Association of Negro Women. Mba works with a host of community organizations in an effort to benefit the Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) community.

Portrait of Ishmia Black, 2023 White House HBCU Scholar

Ishmia Black, 2023 White House HBCU Scholar

Ishmia Black is a senior biology major attending Philander Smith College (PSC) in Little Rock, Arkansas. She is vice president of the Tau Chapter of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority Inc., president of the Pre-med Society, McKinley Newton Honor Society Scholar, 2023 Social Justice Institute Fellow, and captain of the PSC cross-country team. She also served as the 59th Miss Philander Smith College.