HBCUs in Pennsylvania

Choosing the right HBCU in Pennsylvania can be overwhelming. Find key facts on two of the oldest HBCUs in the country.
portrait of Alison Plaut
Alison Plaut
Read Full Bio


Alison Plaut has been writing for educational nonprofit organizations and financial publications for more than 15 years. She is passionate about helping people empower themselves while making a positive impact on society. She is qualified to help ind...
Published on September 21, 2023
Edited by
portrait of Lorraine Mumby
Lorraine Mumby
Read Full Bio


Lorraine Mumby is an editor for BestColleges who focuses on diversity, equity, and inclusion. She is passionate about equipping students with the tools to succeed and have meaningful, equitable educational experiences. Lorraine has a bachelor's degre...
Reviewed by
portrait of Pamela “Safisha Nzingha” Hill, Ph.D.
Pamela “Safisha Nzingha” Hill, Ph.D.
Read Full Bio

Reviewer & Writer

For over 20 years, Pamela "Safisha Nzingha" Hill, Ph.D., has worked in higher education in both student development and academic affairs. Dr. Hill is a diversity, equity, and inclusion consultant; Afrocentric scholar; activist; journalist; educator; ...
Learn more about our editorial process

  • HBCUs in Pennsylvania are two of the oldest in the nation and have a history of excellence.
  • Cheyney University was the first HBCU in the Keystone State and offers 23 undergraduate majors.
  • Lincoln University was the first degree-granting HBCU in Pennsylvania and now offers 32 majors.
  • Black students in Pennsylvania can access several state-specific and national resources to help them get through and pay for college.

Historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) play a vital role in the US higher education system. HBCUs blend culture, history, and rigorous academics while educating a racially diverse student body and offering a rich cultural history to students.

Equally importantly, HBCUs offer greater access to education, educating nearly twice as many low-income students as other colleges and universities. About 70% of students at HBCUs receive Pell Grants.

Pennsylvania is home to two of the oldest HBCUs in the country. Cheyney University was established in 1837, and Lincoln University in 1854. These small liberal arts colleges have a long history of excellent academics, extracurricular activities, and cultural education.

Cheyney University

Cheyney University is the oldest HBCU in the U.S. Established in 1837 in Cheyney, Pennsylvania, as the African Institute, it later was renamed the Institute for Colored Youth before becoming known as Cheyney in 1913.

You might consider attending Cheyney not only for the outstanding academics, but also for the cultural education, rich student life, and development in and out of the classroom. Cheyney's First Year Experience program helps first-year students with their transition to college.

Majors Offered

Cheyney University offers 23 majors, including biology, sociology, business administration, communication, liberal arts, psychology, computer science, hospitality, graphic design, mathematics, and biological sciences. Additionally, there are special programs in aquaculture research; hotel, restaurant, and tourism management; and pre-law, pre-med, and pre-nursing.

When choosing a major at Cheyney University, you also have the option to transfer credits from an associate degree.

Student Population

As of the fall of 2022, Cheyney University had a total student enrollment of 706. Its retention rate is 56%, its graduation rate is 27% for full-time students. As much as 92% of Cheyney University students are enrolled online. Class sizes are small, with an average student-to-faculty ratio of 12-to-1.

Campus Culture

Campus culture includes diverse extracurricular activities, from sports to student clubs and organizations. Students can choose to participate in Greek life, honorary societies, student government, and student employment options. There are three varsity sports teams at Cheyney University. There are also 20 student organizations, from bible study to pre-law society to recreation club.

Tuition and Cost

College costs can be expensive! The average college tuition is $19,000; however, it can vary widely by college. Cheyney University costs considerably less than that for state residents. For the fall of 2023, the average tuition and fees per semester is $5,452, or $322 per credit hour. For non-residents, the cost is $18,870 per year, or $644 per credit hour.

Graduation Rate

Cheyney University's graduation rate for first-time, full-time students was 25.6% for the 2020-2021 academic year. A college's graduation rate can help you evaluate the quality of the college and might offer insight into a student's experience at the college. However, other factors about student demographics can also influence graduation rates.

Lincoln University

Lincoln University was founded in 1854 near Oxford, Pennsylvania, as the Ashmun Institute. Lincoln University was the third HBCU and the first degree-granting HBCU. Lincoln University has been a public institution since 1972.

The 429-acre main campus marries tradition and modern facilities with a scenic landscape. While most of Lincoln University's students are Black, it has a long history of accepting students of all races and nationalities. Lincoln University offers a rich cultural life and is a member school of the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, which offers additional scholarship opportunities to students.

Majors Offered

Lincoln University offers 32 undergraduate majors, including religion, sociology, visual arts, physics, pre-law, music, economics, computer science, Black studies, and anthropology.

The criminal justice and safety studies program is one of Lincoln University's most popular offerings. Other popular undergraduate majors include industrial and organizational psychology, English, information technology, biology, human services, digital communications, and management.

Lincoln offers master's degrees in human resources, business administration, early childhood education, and educational leadership.

Student Population

As of fall 2022, Lincoln University enrolled 1,712 undergraduate and 112 graduate students. Sixty-five percent of undergraduates were female. Approximately half of the students are in-state Pennsylvania residents, and the other half are out-of-state students.

Class sizes are small. According to Lincoln's website, 99% of classes have 39 students or fewer, with a student-to-faculty ratio of 13-to-1.

Campus Culture

Lincoln University offers a wide range of extracurricular activities, including sports and student organizations. Despite its remote campus, there are many activities for students, including parties, concerts, talent competitions, and special speakers. Students can join Greek life, the Royal Court, or participate in student clubs and organizations.

Lincoln University also offers 11 Division II sports teams, including the famous Lincoln University football program

Tuition and Cost

At Lincoln University, the average in-state undergraduate tuition and fees is $11,910 per year. For out-of-state students, Lincoln University tuition and fees is $18,456 annually. However, 96% of students receive some type of financial assistance. As a member institution of the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, there are additional scholarship possibilities for students.

Graduation Rate

Lincoln University's graduation rate is 45% six years after enrollment for students who entered the college in fall 2016. The college's graduation rate and retention rates give a sign of student satisfaction and the quality of student life.

Resources for Black Students at PWIs

In addition to national scholarships for Black students, there are a number of resources for Black students in Pennsylvania, although many are offered through specific institutions like the University of Pennsylvania. These include:

Makuu: The Black Cultural Center

This UPenn resource center offers Black students support for student life, academics, financial resources, health and wellness, and career readiness.

PennState Minority Services

PennState offers diversity scholarships, a multicultural council, and a LEADS early college experience program for underrepresented groups, first-generation college students, and economically disadvantaged students.

Drexel University

Drexel University offers a compilation of online resources for Black students. It also is home to the Center for Black Culture and Student Center for Diversity and Inclusion. Online resources include therapy, emotional and mental health resources, meditations and articles for BIPOC students, and links to cultural events and resources in Philadelphia.

Pennsylvania Legislative Black Caucus Scholarship

The Pennsylvania Legislative Black Caucus Scholarship offers $1,000 scholarships for graduating high school seniors of color.

Frequently Asked Questions About HBCUs

How many HBCUs are in Pennsylvania?

There are two HBCUs in Pennsylvania: Lincoln University and Cheyney University. Around 2,560 students are attending these schools, with an average student-to-faculty ratio of 14-to-1.

What were the first three HBCUs?

The oldest and third-oldest HBCUs were established in Pennsylvania and remain in operation today. The first three HBCUs were Cheyney University, University of the District of Columbia (previously known as Miner School for Colored Girls), and Lincoln University.

Is Lincoln University a D1 School?

Lincoln is a DII University that has 11 varsity sports teams. Students can choose to play for the Lincoln University Lions in sports, including cheerleading, football, basketball, volleyball, baseball, cross country, track and field, softball, and soccer.

Which state has the most HBCUs?

Alabama has the most HBCUs, with 14 public and private historically Black colleges and universities in the state. Alabama's HBCUs include Alabama State University, Alabama A&M University, Oakwood University, and Tuskegee University.

Are HBCUs Black-Owned?

Most HBCUs are public universities, which means they are owned by the state or receive the majority of funding from the government. Wilberforce University in Ohio, established in 1856, is the oldest private HBCU owned and operated by Black Americans.