Scholarships for HBCU Students

Learn how HBCU scholarships and grants can help Black students pay for college. Fund your degree through alternatives to student loans.

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by Meg Whitenton

Updated March 18, 2022

Reviewed by Pamela “Safisha Nzingha” Hill, Ph.D.

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Scholarships for HBCU Students

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For students attending historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs), scholarships, internships, and fellowships can make higher education more affordable. HBCU scholarships and grants can supplement federal financial aid to help students fund their degrees and, ultimately, launch their careers.

While the majority of college students need financial aid to afford college, HBCU scholarships recognize the merit and potential of Black students with unique financial considerations. Read on to learn more about scholarships for HBCU students and related resources.

Financial Considerations for HBCU Students

Pursuing a college degree is a costly proposition for most students, but it can be disproportionately expensive for Black students. Many Black students at HBCUs face hardships beyond those of their white peers, including increased student debt and less available institutional aid.

A 2016 report from the United Negro College Fund (UNCF) found that 80% of HBCU students used federal loans for college, versus only 55% of non-HBCU students. Additionally, according to the Brookings Institute, Black students attending four-year colleges owed an average of $7,400 more in student loans than white students as of 2016. And that average debt gap more than tripled for Black graduates over the next several years. As a result, many Black students face significant student loan debt.

HBCU scholarships and grants, which typically do not require repayment, can help alleviate these critical deficiencies in federal financial aid for Black students. Scholarships may be awarded based on a variety of factors, including merit and financial need. The following sections describe some of the most generous and inclusive HBCU scholarships and grants.

Scholarships for HBCU Students

Many HBCUs offer partial and full scholarships to enrolled students. Learners should inquire about these institutional scholarships when applying to college. Additionally, local chapters of Black fraternities and sororities, alumni chapters, and other organizations offer scholarships, including those described below.

The ABOUT LOVE Scholarship

Coca-Cola First Generation Scholarship

The Frederick Douglas Bicentennial Scholarship Program

Fund II Foundation UNCF STEM Scholars Program

Intel Scholarship

Target Scholars Program

Thurgood Marshall College Fund/Lowe's Scholarship

Thurgood Marshall College Fund/Wells Fargo Emergency Scholarship

UNCF K-12 Education Fellowship

UNCF/Koch Scholars Program

Grants for HBCU Students

Federal Pell Grant

Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant

HBCU Tuition and Travel Grant

Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grant

Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) Grant

Additional Resources for Financial Assistance

CBCA walks students through completing The Common Application, which allows students to apply to multiple colleges and universities at once. For a single $20 fee, students can submit their application to all 65 CBCA-member institutions, including HBCUs. Among the nation's leading internship programs for HBCU students, HBCU First provides career-centered experiences for Black youth. Internships include a variety of programs focused on leadership, mentoring, HBCU equity, career exploration, and STEM. TMCF partners with major national corporations and esteemed HBCUs to provide resources for Black students, including scholarships and talent acquisition and career placement services. This resource caters to current HBCU students, HBCU alumni, and their parents. The portal offers services like HBCU rankings, job listings, and career development assistance. HBCU Lifestyle also connects students with scholarships and college tours. United Negro College Fund hosts a variety of free, virtual events throughout the year to promote college- and career-readiness among Black high school and college students. UNCF also offers multiple merit scholarships to students attending the events.

Frequently Asked Questions About Scholarships for HBCU Students

Which HBCU gives the most scholarships?

While exact scholarship numbers vary each year, Cheyney University of Pennsylvania awarded the most HBCU scholarships during the 2016-2017 academic year -- according to HBCU Lifestyle -- totaling more than $6,750 per student. Many other schools, including South Carolina State University, Delaware State University, Tuskegee University, and Virginia State University also award generous scholarship packages to students.

What GPA do you need to get a full-ride scholarship?

Most full-ride scholarships require a GPA of at least 3.5 on a 4.0 scale. However, many programs consider additional criteria, such as class rank and standardized test scores. Students should carefully read the scholarship's requirements to manage their own expectations. Scholarships that specify a particular minimum GPA tend to remain firm on that requirement, while others may give a range or state a willingness to consider other factors.

What is the least-expensive HBCU?

Elizabeth City State University in North Carolina is among the most affordable HBCUS. Annual tuition for the 2021-2022 school year totals $6,664 for in-state students and $10,664 for out-of-state learners. Shorter College -- a private, two-year HBCU in Arkansas -- is another affordable school, with estimated tuition and fees of about $6,000 a year. Even many of the most expensive HBCUs keep costs lower than the national average for tuition.

What percentage of HBCU students receive financial aid?

According to TMCF,more than 75% of students at HBCUs receive Federal Pell Grants and nearly 13% pursue PLUS Loans to attend college. Outside of federal financial aid, many HBCU scholarships are distributed based on available institutional funding, which pales in comparison to that of primarily white institutions. On average, HBCU's endowments are roughly 13% the size of non-HBCU institutions' endowments.

Which HBCU has the highest tuition?

Atlanta's Spelman College tops the list of the most expensive HBCUs in the U.S., with tuition and fees exceeding $28,000 annually for students during the 2021-2022 academic year.

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Portrait of Dr. Pamela “Safisha Nzingha” Hill, Ph.D.

Dr. Pamela “Safisha Nzingha” Hill, Ph.D.

Dr. Pamela "Safisha Nzingha" Hill, Ph.D., is a diversity, equity, and inclusion consultant; Afrocentric scholar; activist; journalist; educator; student development practitioner; and life student of Africana studies. For over 20 years Dr. Hill has worked in higher education in both student development and academic affairs. She has served as a mid-level student affairs administrator in positions of assistant dean of students, diversity director, and assistant vice president, as well as adjunct assistant professor teaching in the areas of higher education, humanities, developmental writing, African American studies, and social work. As a student-centered educator/consultant, she is experienced at developing culturally based curricula and conducting specialized professional development sessions on cultural competency and sensitivity educational training within academic and organizational settings. Additionally, she has lectured at a number of colleges and universities across the nation on issues pertinent to the Black experience and multiculturalism in higher education.

Dr. Hill is a proud graduate of Langston University — Oklahoma's only Historically Black University — where she received a bachelor of arts degree in broadcast journalism. Additionally, she holds a master of science in college teaching/student personnel services from Northeastern State University in Oklahoma, and she earned a Ph.D. in higher and adult education with an emphasis in student development and minors in Black studies and educational counseling psychology from the University of Missouri-Columbia — one of the nation's top-tier Research I institutions.

She holds membership in the Texas Association of Black Personnel in Higher Education, Association for the Study of African American Life and History, Langston University Alumni Association, and Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. She is the proud mother of a daughter, Safisha Nzingha, who is a student at Langston University.

Dr. Hill sees her life mission as moving people forward through the vehicle of culturally grounded education.

Feature Image: Peter Muller / Image Source / Getty Images