HBCUs in Ohio

Ohio is home to one private and one public HBCU. Find out which may be right for you by comparing their academic focus, program offerings and costs.
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Historically Black colleges and universities were founded prior to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibited segregation. These schools offered Black students access to higher education at a time when access to education was limited.

There are over 100 HBCUs in the United States today, two of which are in Ohio: Central State University and Wilberforce University.

Wilberforce University: A Private Tradition

Wilberforce University is located in Wilberforce, Ohio, and is the only private HBCU in Ohio — as well as the oldest private HBCU in the country. Established in 1856, this institution was a joint effort of the Cincinnati Methodist Episcopal Church and the African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME) to provide classical education and teacher training for Black youth.

By 1862, the Cincinnati-based church pulled out of the deal due to financial issues connected with the Civil War. The following year, AME church raised enough funds to purchase Wilberforce, making it the first and only HBCU owned by Black people.

Named after abolitionist William Wilberforce, the school has faced some setbacks that forced periods of closure during its long history, including a fire in 1865 that burned the school to the ground on the same night that Abraham Lincoln was assassinated. However, shortly afterward, they were able to rebuild and thrive.

Academic Excellence

Wilberforce offers 21 academic concentrations in business, communications, computer and engineering science, humanities, natural sciences, and social sciences. Students can work toward a bachelor of arts or bachelor of science degree. There is also a minor in entrepreneurship.

As a private university, undergraduate students will pay the same tuition regardless of their state residency: $12,020 a year.

Center for Leadership

The Center for Leadership in Management and Business (CLIMB) program at Wilberforce University is designed for adult learners who wish to accelerate their degree online. It's for students wanting to earn their bachelor of science degree in organizational management, health care administration, or information technology.

Campus Culture

Wilberforce University is home to many student organizations. Students can also enjoy playing different sports through the university's intramural program. Six of the nine Black fraternities and sororities also have active chapters at Wilberforce. Most Wilberforce students live on campus.

Each year, Wilberforce names a Royal Court of students chosen by peers to represent the school. This group organizes events, speaks to youth, and hosts student groups.

Central State University: A Public Legacy

Central State University was founded more than 135 years ago. It is also located in Wilberforce, Ohio, where it was once a part of Wilberforce University. In 1951, it became independent of Wilberforce, becoming the only public HBCU in Ohio. Central State University has experienced some setbacks, including a 1974 tornado that demolished a large part of the school.

Academic Excellence

Central State University offers a broad selection of majors ranging from engineering and sustainable agriculture to broadcast media. There are also special opportunities within specific colleges, including a Mass Communications Center and Agricultural Experimentation Station. In-state students who wish to attend Central State University can expect to pay an average of $4,306 in undergraduate tuition per year. Out-of-state students pay an average of $6,306 per year.

STEM & Sustainability

Central State University strongly supports STEM students. Its College of Engineering, Science, Technology, and Agriculture offers 10 programs in these categories. It also has a STEM Success Center to support students, with a focus on supporting women to prepare for STEM-related careers.

Campus Culture

Central State University offers students many ways to become involved on campus through chorus, band, and various clubs and volunteering opportunities. Students can join the Student Government Association or participate in sports, cheerleading, dancing, or color guard. Students can also run for Royal Court, symbolizing Black excellence.

Additionally, students can seek membership in one of the active National Pan-Hellenic Council sororities or fraternities.

Comparing the Two HBCUs in Ohio

Students interested in attending an HBCU in Ohio will have to consider several factors when deciding between Central State University and Wilberforce University. As a public school, the cost to attend CSU is significantly lower than that of Wilberforce. CSU is a much larger school than Wilberforce, with an undergraduate enrollment of 4,029 compared to 439. CSU offers 38 undergraduate programs, whereas Wilberforce offers 29.

While the schools differ in many ways, it's important to note that they share the same mission and have a long history of supporting each other.

Other Schools in Ohio that Offer Inclusive & Diverse Learning Experiences

There are other schools in Ohio that aren't classified as HBCUs but still provide inclusive and diverse learning experiences, including Ohio University, the University of Cincinnati, and Xavier University.

Ohio University

Ohio University celebrates identities, cultures, and perspectives of all kinds by supporting students through its Multicultural Center, LGBT Center, and Women's Center. Its Division of Diversity and Inclusion helps students navigate diverse identities and perspectives, with a focus on groups that have been historically under-represented.

University of Cincinnati

The University of Cincinnati (UC) has a long-standing history of developing programs to meet the academic, social, and cultural needs of its Black students. The African American Cultural and Resource Center opened in 1991 with a new 6,000-square-foot space through the efforts of students, Black alumni, and the community.

One of the major highlights for Black students at UC is the Tyehimba Graduation Ceremony. Tyehimba is a Swahili phrase meaning “we stand as a nation.” During this event, which is open to the public, graduating students receive African kente stoles and are celebrated in a joyful atmosphere of African drumming, dancing, gospel singing, and positive affirmations.

Xavier University

Not to be confused with Xavier University of Louisiana, Xavier University, located in Cincinnati, is not an HBCU but prides itself on a diverse student population. They have students from 48 different countries, with 15 religions practiced on campus. They welcome all students, including LGBTQIA+ people, women and non-gender conforming people, and people with disabilities.

Frequently Asked Questions about the HBCU in Ohio

Where is Central State University?

Central State University is located in Wilberforce, OH. Wilberforce University is also located in Wilberforce, OH.

What division is Central State University?

Central State University is part of the National Collegiate Athletic Association's (NCAA) Division II in the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SIAC). Alternately, Wilberforce University is part of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA).

Because the NCAA is more competitive than NAIA, the difference in divisions between these schools may be a deciding factor when choosing an athletic experience at one of these HBCUs.

Is Wilberforce University closing?

Despite facing some challenges in recent years, Wilberforce University is still open. While placed on probation for being out of compliance with the Higher Learning Commission's accreditation standards in 2018, the probation has since been lifted, leaving Wilberforce in good standing.

What financial aid and scholarship opportunities are available for students at HBCUs in Ohio?

Several financial aid and scholarship opportunities are available to students who wish to attend an HBCU in Ohio. HBCU scholarships and grants do not typically require repayment, which can help alleviate the financial strain for Black students. Based on merit and financial need, some of these include the Frederick Douglass Bicentennial Scholarship Program and the Target Scholars Program.