Is There an HBCU in Michigan?
Reviewer & Writer
Reviewer & Writer
Michigan is home to one college that was established to offer an education to Black students. However, while Pensole Lewis College of Business and Design (PLC) is designated as a historically Black college, it is less traditional than most other historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs). The school has undergone several changes throughout its nearly 100-year history, but PLC has never wavered from its mission of providing community, support, and education for Black students.
Originally focused on business, PLC recently shifted its focus to footwear and apparel design. Read on to learn more about the history of PLC, its 2022 reopening, and its unique professional training programs.
The History of HBCUs in Michigan
As the first and only HBCU in Michigan, Pensole Lewis College fulfills an important role in the state's history of higher education. For nearly a century, the school has provided career training, academic community, and professional connections for Black students in Michigan.
Founded in 1928
Dr. Violet Temple Lewis founded the Lewis Business College — later renamed Lewis College of Business (LCB) and now known as PLC — in 1928 in Indianapolis, with the goal of providing secretarial training to Black women. In 1938, the school opened a branch in Detroit, which later became the school's main campus. Evolving over the years into a general business college, the school was designated an HBCU in 1987.
Demographics of Lewis College of Business
Lewis College of Business served a primarily Black student body. While it originally opened as a secretarial school for women, LCB later enrolled male students and began offering a variety of business degrees. During its years of operation, the school served more than 27,000 students.
Student Success at LCB
Many LCB graduates were hired as the first Black office workers at Michigan companies like Ford, GM, and Michigan Bell. Enrollment at the college once grew by 600% in just one year, driven by the demand for skilled Black professionals.
College Closed Due to Low Attendance
Lewis College of Business experienced decreasing enrollment by the 2000s, largely due to widespread economic decline in Detroit. The school lost its accreditation in 2007 and officially closed in 2015. However, the school reopened in 2022 as Pensole Lewis College of Business and Design.
Is Pensole Lewis College of Business and Design Still an HBCU?
Pensole Lewis College of Business and Design is still classified as an HBCU. While the school has shifted its focus from general business to footwear and apparel design, PLC still adheres to the original mission of Lewis College of Business. The school operates as a reimagining of LCB and its original goals instead of an entirely new institution.
PLC funds its operations through brand partnerships with industry leaders, allowing the school to cover all tuition expenses for admitted students.
PLC offers courses in four departments: footwear design, color and material design, apparel design, and product marketing. Currently, the school does not offer courses for academic credit. Instead, PLC's intensive four-week "masterclasses" provide specialized training that can lead directly to professional employment.
Given its professional focus, PLC doesn't currently offer traditional student housing, dining, or campus activities. However, if you're admitted into a masterclass, you'll receive free accommodations at the Hotel St. Regis Detroit near campus. Meals are not included with accommodations, but PLC's campus is close to several restaurants and grocery stores.
HBCUs Near Michigan
If you're looking to stay close to Michigan, Ohio is home to two HBCUs — both located in the town of Wilberforce. These institutions are about 200 miles south of Detroit.
Central State University
Central State University, established in 1887, is the only public HBCU in Ohio. The school enrolls around 6,000 undergraduates and offers several bachelor's programs as well as an MBA. CSU students can enjoy a traditional campus experience with sports, academic and social clubs, fraternities, sororities, and other activities. The school accepts about 60% of applicants and charges around $10,000 per year in tuition.
Wilberforce University was established in 1856 and is the nation's oldest private HBCU. This small liberal arts college, with an enrollment of about 600 students, was the first to be owned and operated by Black people through its affiliation with the African Methodist Episcopal Church. The school offers 21 academic programs in areas like communications, humanities, and natural sciences. Wilberforce accepts around 62% of applicants each year and charges about $15,000 in annual tuition.
5 Resources for Black College Students in Michigan
Michigan African American Scholarships
The state of Michigan maintains an extensive list of scholarships for Black students. This is a great resource if you're looking into educational funding in the state.
National Black Student Alliance
The NBSA offers resources and support to Black college students across the country. Joining the organization can help you connect with other Black students at your school.
Thurgood Marshall College Fund
The Thurgood Marshall College Fund offers scholarships to students attending HBCUs and other predominantly Black institutions. The fund offers a variety of scholarships for both undergraduate and graduate students.
University of Michigan — African American/Black Student Toolkit
The University of Michigan offers a comprehensive list of resources for Black students in higher education. While some resources apply specifically to U-M, many serve Black students throughout Michigan.
Michigan American Planning Association Scholarships
The Michigan chapter of the American Planning Association offers scholarships for Black students to attend the organization's annual planning conference each fall. You must be studying community planning to apply.