Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) are schools that were founded on the belief that everyone deserves access to a college education. More specifically, the Higher Education Act of 1965 defines an HBCU as “any Historically Black College or University that was established prior to 1964, whose principal mission was, and is, the education of Black Americans.” There are more than 100 HBCUs in the United States, including public and private institutions and law and medical schools. If you’re considering adding an HBCU to your college list, here’s a look at just a few of the reasons these schools are incredible institutions of higher education.
1. First-rate education
Some of the best academic colleges and universities in the country are HBCUs. Schools such as Hampton University, Howard University, Morehouse College, and Spelman College have a long and illustrious history of offering African American students a world-class education. Today, that education extends beyond the Black community to people of all cultures, bringing Black history and values to a wide range of students.
2. Caring professors and faculty
The top-notch education you’ll find at an HBCU is delivered by a host of accomplished and caring professors and faculty. Case in point: Dr. Fred A. Bonner II, a prominent scholar whose research focuses on African American males, formerly worked at Rutgers University and left to accept a position at Prairie View A&M, where he continued his work on initiatives such as the HBCU Deans Think-Tank and the Black Male Summit. HBCUs hire faculty who match the values of the schools they work at—values built upon the important history of the colleges.
3. Classes and extracurricular activities tailored to Black culture
Many HBCUs offer classes and extracurricular activities that can be harder to come by at other Predominantly White Institutions (PWIs). Students often find that the courses offered at an HBCU give them a one-of-a-kind opportunity to explore Black culture, African American history, and the Black experience in the past and present. These opportunities help Black students feel seen and valued while also providing non-Black students a better understanding of Black history to help everyone work toward a better world that promotes diversity, equity, and inclusion.
4. A supportive atmosphere
At an HBCU, you’ll find people who come from similar backgrounds and circumstances and who have had similar cultural experiences, but you'll also find people with very different experiences who will help broaden your worldview. There’s an atmosphere of community and collaboration among the student body, and professors and faculty will be there to help nurture and guide you throughout your college education.
HBCUs do primarily serve Black students, but that doesn’t mean you’re going to have a limited cultural experience. On the contrary, people from all over the world come to the United States to attend HBCUs, which results in diverse student bodies and showcases the dedication students of other cultures have to respect, value, and support Black history and communities.
As previously mentioned, HBCUs were established specifically with the goal of increasing African Americans’ access to a college education, so students attending these schools can and should feel empowered by the fact that they’re actively defending and taking advantage of their rights. These colleges are built upon the desire to see students succeed wherever their path takes them in life, and that's exactly how you'll feel if you attend one of these schools.
7. A chance to continue the legacy
If your parents, grandparents, and/or other family members attended an HBCU and you decide to follow suit, you can take pride in the fact that you’re continuing an important legacy. Of course, that shouldn’t be the only factor that plays into where you decide to attend college, but if you do end up at a loved one’s alma mater, you'll be taking part in a meaningful family tradition. Not to mention, attending an HBCU helps that school stay open and gain the notoriety it deserves as a quality institution of higher learning.
Related: Top 10 Historically Black Colleges
8. Alumni associations for graduates of all HBCUs
Though most schools have their own individual alumni associations, there are also several country-wide or regional alumni associations that graduates of any HBCU can join, such as the National HBCU Alumni Association, the DC Metro HBCU Alumni Alliance, and the Atlanta HBCU Alumni Alliance, just to name a few. Such organizations can give you valuable networking opportunities throughout your career while offering the advantage of alumni benefits offered specifically at your school.
9. Scholarships and grants
If college costs are a concern for you, you’ll be happy to hear that there are many scholarships and grants available for Black students in general and for students attending HBCUs in particular. Use important search terms like "HBCUs," "Historically Black Colleges," "Black students," and more when looking for awards to ensure you're finding the right opportunities for you.
10. You’ll be in good company
There are some big names in Hollywood, publishing, the religious community, and more who have graduated from HBCUs and gone on to incredibly successful careers. Here are just a few famous folks who attended these schools:
- Toni Morrison: Howard University
- Wanda Sykes: Hampton University
- Reverand Jesse Jackson: North Carolina A&T State University
- Samuel L. Jackson: Morehouse College
- Oprah Winfrey: Tennessee State University
Historically Black Colleges and Universities are institutions of academic excellence with long histories of producing successful Black graduates—and in more recent years, graduates of all cultures. Attending an HBCU is sure to provide you with a welcoming, academically rigorous, and energetic atmosphere built on strong values and the desire to see students flourish. If you’re thinking about applying to some of these schools, you’ve made a good choice for your future.
Interested in learning more about Historically Black Colleges and Universities? Here’s a complete list of HBCUs to start exploring your options and all they have to offer!