Historically black colleges and universities, or 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 the list of colleges to which you’re applying, here’s a look at just a few of the reasons why one of these schools could be right for you.
1. A first-rate education
Some of the best colleges and universities in the country are HBCUs. Schools such as Hampton University, Howard University, Morehouse College, and Spelman College all have a long and illustrious history of offering African American students a world-class education.
2. Caring professors and faculty
The aforementioned 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, recently left Rutgers University to accept a position at Prairie View A&M, where he’ll continue his work on initiatives such as the HBCU Deans Think-Tank and the Black Male Summit.
3. Classes and extracurricular activities tailored to African Americans
Many HBCUs offer classes and extracurricular activities that can be harder to come by at other schools. Students often find that the courses offered at an HBCU give them a one-of-a-kind opportunity to explore African American history and experiences.
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. There’s an atmosphere of community and collaboration among the student body, and the professors and faculty will be there to help nurture and guide you throughout your college education.
HBCUs do primarily serve African American 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.
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.
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.
8. Alumni associations for graduates of all HBCUs
Though most schools have their own individual alumni associations, there are also several alumni associations which 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.
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 African American students in general and HBCU students in particular—and best of all, you can start finding them right now with the CollegeXpress scholarship search!
10. You’ll be in good company
Check out just of the few of the famous folks who graduated from HBCUs:
- Toni Morrison: Howard University
- Wanda Sykes: Hampton University
- Rev. Jesse Jackson: North Carolina A&T State University
- Samuel L. Jackson: Morehouse College
- Oprah Winfrey: Tennessee State University
Interested in learning more about historically black colleges and universities? Here’s a complete list of HBCUs from the Department of Education.