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Why an HBCU Could Be Right for You

Lara Poulios February 19, 2019

African American College Student

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Thurgood Marshall
Toni Morrison
Spike Lee
Alice Walker
Senator Kamala Harris

These are just a few of the many notable graduates of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). This important segment of our nation’s higher education system originated back in the late 1800’s with the purpose of educating black Americans. In fact, in 1890, the Morrill Act required states to provide a land grant to institutions for black students if admission to college was not allowed elsewhere in the state. These colleges quickly became an important path to educating young black Americans and providing them with opportunities for professional careers. To this day, HBCUs still serve the important role of creating a nurturing environment where black students can learn alongside other students that have had a similar experience in their educational journey.

Who are the HBCUs?

More than 100 schools make up the body of colleges and universities that define the term HBCU. They are diverse in size and educational offerings, with some offering 2-year programs and many offering 4-year degrees. According to the US Department of Education, by the 21st century HBCUs had provided undergraduate training for three fourths of all black students holding a doctorate degree; three fourths of all black officers in the armed forces; and four fifths of all black federal judges. In addition, although HBCUs represent only 3% of all colleges and universities in the U.S., they enroll 12% of all black students and produce more than 20% of all black graduates. The mission of the HBCUs is supported through the bipartisan Congressional HBCU Caucus, designed to protect and promote the interests of these institutions and increase access to higher education for this segment of our population.

Why choose an HBCU

HBCUs provide a nurturing and supportive educational community where students will find peers with shared experiences and a unique understanding of the challenges that this segment of the student population faces. HBCU faculty are also uniquely qualified to understand the barriers that these students have encountered in seeking education, and provide a support system for students that results in a higher graduation rate for black students than at non-HBCUs. Beyond this, the United Negro College Fund (UNCF) notes that during this decade, the average cost of attendance at an HBCU was 26% less than the average cost at other four-year colleges. After graduation, HBCU graduates will find a strong network of alumni connections that will support them as they navigate their career field and life after graduation.

Applying To An HBCU

As with any other university, HBCUs offer a wide variety of educational experiences, each with their own set of strengths. It is important for students who are interested in an HBCU to consider their own academic goals and the environment that will be the best fit. In addition to the traditional college search tools, there is terrific information on the websites of the UNCF and HBCU Lifestyle for those students that are looking to learn more about HBCUs and the advantages of choosing this educational setting.

Ready to apply to an HBCU? Almost half of all HBCUs participate in the Common Black College Application which allows students to apply to 50 HBCUs using a single application and a one-time $35 fee. The student can then track their application and admissions results using a mobile app. HBCUs that don’t use the Common Black College Application use the Common Application or their own online application that can easily be found on the college’s website.

Sources: Smithsonian,, US Dept of Ed, Thurgood Marshall College Fund, UNCF

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Tagged: college admission, college applications, college planning, common app, college list, college search, Historically Black College, HBCU

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