College Guide for HBCU Students | BestColleges (2023)

Historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) were established to educate Black students in the United States. HBCUs offer education and mentorship opportunities with a goal to uplift Black communities. Over 100 HBCUs can be found across the country and are accessible to all students.

HBCUs contribute significantly to the graduation rates of Black students. The United Negro College Fund (UNCF) reports that — despite making up just 3% of the accredited colleges and universities in the U.S. — HBCUs educated about 10% of Black students nationwide and awarded about 17% of the bachelor's degrees earned by African American students in 2014.

This guide provides helpful information and resources for aspiring HBCU students.

Key Trends for HBCU Students

Black student enrollment rises: Black enrollment at HBCUs increased by 15% from 1976 to 2019, according to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). HBCUs enroll roughly 300,000 students each year. Seventy-six percent of students at these schools identify as Black or African American.

Degrees earned: In 2018-19, NCES reported over 48,000 students earned degrees from HBCUs. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the overall percentage of African Americans, ages 25 and over, with a bachelor's degree or higher increased from 19.8% to 26.1% from 2010 to 2019.

Large number of Black STEM graduates: According to UNCF, about 25% of African Americans with science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) degrees graduated from HBCUs. Additionally, in 2020, the National Science Foundation established a center to learn from the successes that top HBCUs have achieved in terms of undergraduate STEM education.

Top professions represented by HBCU graduates: According to the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, 80% of Black judges, 50% of Black lawyers, 40% of Black members of Congress, and 40% of Black engineers graduated from HBCUs.

What are some promising trends you see from your study of HBCUs (or your professional experience at an HBCU)?

College Guide for HBCU Students | BestColleges (1)

Dr. Kimberly Brown Pellum

"Those who were once unaware of the priceless value of HBCUs are awakening. Corporate entities and private donors are increasing support, while alumni giving is also on the rise. For so long, HBCUs have done much more with much less. We've nurtured the minds and talents of history-making ministers like Martin Luther King Jr. and Fred Shuttlesworth. Hollywood blockbuster producers like Rob Hardy and Will Packer. Global moguls like Diddy and Oprah. Art connoisseurs and philanthropists like Bernard and Shirley Kinsey. If the current trends continue, the possibilities are endless."

Challenges and Barriers to Success

Black representation matters: It is common for Black students and faculty members to be underrepresented at U.S. colleges and universities. Black representation at HBCUs can help create inclusive college campuses for students.

At HBCUs, on average, Black students make up about 80% of the enrollment, according to UNCF. The percentage of Black faculty members is also much higher on an HBCU campus compared to primarily white institutions. Black students may find it easier to seek out role models and mentors among HBCU faculty members. These connections can help with a student's college success.

Financial burden for Black students: Gaps in federal and private funding can have an impact on HBCUs and their students. Black students rely more heavily on loans to pay tuition costs. According to NCES, Black students take out student loans at higher rates than students of other races. Black students may also take more time to pay off student loan debts than non-Black students. Pay disadvantages after graduation can be one contributing factor to this. Taking longer to pay off loan debts also can limit wealth gain.

Low graduation rates: Black students at public colleges and universities have lower six-year completion rates than other students across the country. Some HBCUs, such as Spelman College and Howard University, boast graduation rates above 50%. However, HBCUs have an average graduation rate of about 35%. Despite these lower rates, HBCUs still graduate more lower-income Black students than other U.S. colleges and universities.

Enrollment and school funding: HBCUs increasingly experience hardships when it comes to obtaining financial funding. As a result, some HBCUs find it challenging to remain open. They may be forced to close their doors or find alternative ways to fund their institutions. Despite these difficulties, many students and alumni talk about how they value their HBCU education.

COVID-19 pandemic: COVID-19 hit the African American community hard. Like other schools, HBCUs were forced to close their doors for months. This limited their ability to receive necessary funding from student tuition fees. Students also lost housing and food resources. The impact of COVID-19 on student and institutional success continues, with more challenges for HBCU communities ahead.

In your view, what is the biggest challenge facing HBCU students today?

College Guide for HBCU Students | BestColleges (2)

Dr. Kimberly Brown Pellum

"Students, regardless of where they attend, HBCU or otherwise, are facing incredible amounts of debt post-graduation. I hope those interested in giving young people a fair start begin to address the loan crisis. And I hope those who elect to pay for college choose wisely and attend universities that have demonstrated a long record of values similar to their own."

Important Factors to Consider When Preparing for College

Choosing a College

Many factors must be considered when choosing a college. Geographic location, tuition cost, and degree options are just a few crucial variables. The importance of Black representation through cultural connection, student experience, and faculty mentorship are also top factors for many considering an HBCU.

Applying to College

Begin your college application process before your senior year of high school. Gathering letters of recommendation, writing personal statements, and taking required tests involve careful planning. The Common Black College Application allows students to submit one application to over 60 HBCUs for a small, one-time fee.

Paying for College

College tuition costs can be a heavy burden. Financial aid can alleviate the need to pay high out-of-pocket costs. Scholarships for Black students can help offset some tuition fees. Other financial aid options for students of color include grants, work-study programs, fellowships, and loans.

College Groups for HBCU Students

HBCU Greek life: Sororities and fraternities hold historical and modern prominence at HBCUs. Nine Greek organizations operate under the National Pan-Hellenic Council. These groups can build connections through service and leadership. Dubbed the "Divine Nine," each chapter offers unique opportunities for HBCU students to grow together as a family unit.

STEM societies: Organizations such as the National Society of Black Engineers support the development of Black STEM students at HBCUs. These societies focus on growing and uplifting Black STEM graduates and professionals.

Black campus ministries: Serving thousands of students across the country, these campus groups provide fellowship and academic support. Ministry chapters can expand beyond HBCU campuses to develop faith-based connections among Black students.

What aspect of student life do you enjoy the most?

College Guide for HBCU Students | BestColleges (3)

Asha Boyce

"I love how the classes are like a family. Your professors care and take a vested interest in you. You are a person and not a number. Howard University also has the best homecoming in the nation so I am looking forward to taking part in that experience."

Organizations and Resources That Support HBCU Students

By visiting this site,students can find resources that support their transition from high school to an HBCU. Resources include information about college fairs and scholarship programs. HBCU First works to increase college and career success for Black youths. Through leadership programs, internship offerings, and mentorship connections, HBCU First provides a resource hub for Black students. This foundation provides scholarships of up to $10,000. HBCU students also can receive awards for leadership and volunteer service. Created by the National Science Foundation in 2000, HBCU-UP supports STEM education across HBCUs. The program provides funding to students and graduates across STEM disciplines. This program works to empower LGBTQ+ students at HBCUs, preparing them to serve as leaders and changemakers. The program's leadership summit includes national and regional experiences. This organization advocates on behalf of HBCUs to develop programs, policies, and practices that support Black students. NAFEO offers volunteer opportunities, internship connections, and policy advocacy across the country. This foundationgets funding and resources from corporations and government entities to support HBCU development. Membership for HBCU students and alumni grants access to a variety of resources and services. Founded in 1987, TMCF exclusively represents the Black college community. TMCF provides college scholarship funding, supports research initiatives, and partners with K-12 schools to uplift the Black academic community. UNCF works to increase the number of African American college graduates. The organization offers scholarships for students and professional development opportunities. It also advocates for federal policy changes. This initiative provides leadership development to support HBCUs entering global markets. For students, the White House program selects HBCU scholars to represent their schools on a national stage.

Frequently Asked Questions About HBCUs

How hard is it to get into an HBCU?

HBCUs vary in their acceptance rates. Many require a GPA of 2.0 or higher for acceptance. Acceptance rates for some HBCUs can drop below 40%. These schools require an admissions package that typically includes high school transcripts, a letter of recommendation, and a personal statement.

Are there scholarships for HBCU students?

Scholarships of all types can be found for HBCU students. HBCUs offer many scholarships to enrolling students. Organizations supporting HBCUs also offer scholarships to African American students. Some awards are based on merit, while others go to students demonstrating a financial need. Financial aid can provide assistance to cover all or part of HBCU tuition fees. With the high cost of college tuition, scholarships can offer much-needed financial assistance.

What percentage of Black college students attend HBCUs?

According to UNCF, HBCUs enroll 10% of all Black college students in the United States. Although HBCUs make up just 3% of accredited colleges and universities in the country, they account for almost 20% of Black graduates.

Why do students attend HBCUs?

Students attend HBCUs for a variety of reasons. For many, the history of HBCUs has demonstrated the critical need for HBCUs among Black communities. Some students find support and mentorship at HBCUs, which have a higher percentage of Black professors than primarily white institutions. The community support among Black students also draws many to the HBCU experience. Additionally, HBCUs may offer lower tuition rates, especially to in-state students attending a public school. This can give students more financial flexibility when pursuing a college education.

Meet the Student

College Guide for HBCU Students | BestColleges (4)

Asha Boyce

Asha Boyce, 19, is from Houston, Texas. Being the daughter of an artist and movie producer, TJ Boyce, she has a natural talent for acting and singing, but her career goal is to help those affected by mental illness. Asha is currently a first-year student at Howard University studying psychology.

Meet the Faculty

College Guide for HBCU Students | BestColleges (5)

Dr. Kimberly Brown Pellum

With a terminal degree in United States history from Howard University, Kimberly Brown Pellum specializes in the history of women's images, Southern culture, and the Black Freedom Struggle. Her contributions to publicly accessible history include work at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American History, The National Park Service, The Rosa Parks Museum, and Google's Arts & Culture series. Kimberly is currently a member of the faculty in the Department of History at Florida A&M University.

Feature Image: Peter Cade / Stone / Getty Images


College Guide for HBCU Students | BestColleges? ›

What GPA do you need to get into an HBCU? The typical GPAs for students accepted into many HBCUs schools range from 2.5-3.0. Other HBCUs may require higher GPAs. For example, students accepted at Hampton University and Florida A&M had average GPAs above 3.25.

What is the toughest HBCU to get into? ›

In this article, we'll discuss some of the most challenging HBCUs to get admission to.
  • Spelman College. ...
  • Howard University. ...
  • Morehouse College. ...
  • Hampton University. ...
  • Xavier University of Louisiana.
May 3, 2023

Who is the #1 public HBCU? ›

HBCU Rankings 2022: The Top 25 Historically Black Colleges and Universities
4Hampton University*Hampton, VA
3Xavier University of LouisianaNew Orleans, LA
2Howard UniversityWashington, DC
1Spelman CollegeAtlanta, GA
24 more rows

What is the average GPA to get into a HBCU? ›

What GPA do you need to get into an HBCU? The typical GPAs for students accepted into many HBCUs schools range from 2.5-3.0. Other HBCUs may require higher GPAs. For example, students accepted at Hampton University and Florida A&M had average GPAs above 3.25.

What are the easiest HBCU to get into? ›

The easiest HBCU to get into are:
  • Albany State University with 91% rate of acceptance.
  • Clark Atlanta University with 71% rate of acceptance.
  • Fort Valley State University with 61% rate of acceptance, and.
  • Morehouse College with 58% rate of acceptance.

Which HBCU has 100% acceptance rate? ›

Miles College

What is the most elite HBCU? ›

Best historically black colleges and universities in the United States 2022
HBCU Rank 2022US College Rank 2022University
1109Howard University
2126Spelman College
3383Xavier University of Louisiana
=4401-500Morehouse College
7 more rows

What HBCU has the most white students? ›

Some historically black colleges, or HBCUs as these schools are often called, are predominantly white, while others have more mixed student bodies. At Bluefield State College, for example, more than 85 percent of students were white in 2013.

What HBCU has the best dorms? ›

Spelman students are known for living in one of the best dormitories in the HBCUs. Just like Morehouse, their student suite-style Living and Learning Center has gained national recognition for providing a unique student living experience.

What is the smallest HBCU in the US? ›

West Virginia State University was established in 1891. Established in 1891 as the West Virginia Colored Institute, West Virginia State University is an HBCU and the smallest land-grant institution in the country.

What is the Ivy League of HBCUs? ›

The Black Ivy League refers to a segment of the historically black colleges (HBCUs) in the United States that attract the majority of high-performing or affluent African American students.

Can you get a full ride to an HBCU? ›

Many HBCUs offer partial and full scholarships to enrolled students.

What is the dropout rate at HBCUs? ›

However, despite the importance of these institutions, HBCUs continue to struggle with low graduation rates. According to data from the National Center for Education Statistics, the overall graduation rate for HBCUs in 2017 was 36%.

Which HBCU has the most beautiful campus? ›

Take a look at the most beautiful HBCUs across the nation.
  • Lincoln University (Jefferson City, Missouri) ...
  • Virginia State University (Petersberg, Virginia) ...
  • Huston-Tillotson University (Austin, Texas) ...
  • Prairie View A&M University (Prairie View, Texas) ...
  • Xavier University (New Orleans, Louisiana)
Oct 13, 2020

Do HBCU accept white students? ›

HBCUs do not discriminate against students based on race, and white students are welcome to attend. In fact, many HBCUs have white students enrolled in degree programs. However, the question of whether or not white students should attend an HBCU is more complex than simply answering whether they are allowed to attend.

What is the safest HBCU in America? ›

Safest HBCU Colleges
  • Spelman College – Located in Atlanta, Georgia, Spelman College is a private, liberal arts institution for women. ...
  • Howard University – A private research university in Washington D.C., Howard University is the only HBCU with a law school, medical school, and dental school.
May 3, 2023

What is the #2 ranked HBCU? ›

HBCU Rankings 2023: The Top 25 Historically Black Colleges and Universities
4Morehouse CollegeAtlanta, GA
3Tuskegee UniversityTuskegee, AL
2Howard UniversityWashington, DC
1Spelman CollegeAtlanta, GA
21 more rows

What is the 2 hardest college to get into? ›

Which colleges are the hardest for your students to get into in...
  • Harvard University: Acceptance rate (5%), SAT range (1460-1580)
  • Stanford University: Acceptance rate (6%), SAT range (1420-1570)
  • Princeton University: Acceptance rate (6%), SAT range (1450-1570)

Are there any HBCU that are Ivy League? ›

2. Howard University. Howard University is in Washington, D.C., and was founded in 1867. It's ranked the second-best HBCU in the country and is considered a Black Ivy League school.

What is statistically the hardest college to get into? ›



Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Lakeisha Bayer VM

Last Updated: 09/28/2023

Views: 6122

Rating: 4.9 / 5 (49 voted)

Reviews: 88% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Lakeisha Bayer VM

Birthday: 1997-10-17

Address: Suite 835 34136 Adrian Mountains, Floydton, UT 81036

Phone: +3571527672278

Job: Manufacturing Agent

Hobby: Skimboarding, Photography, Roller skating, Knife making, Paintball, Embroidery, Gunsmithing

Introduction: My name is Lakeisha Bayer VM, I am a brainy, kind, enchanting, healthy, lovely, clean, witty person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.