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Why Choose a Historically Black College or University (HBCU)?

Choosing a college is an exciting opportunity to explore your options and learn what’s out there. One of those possibilities could be a historically black college or university (HBCU), but you might be wondering, “Why choose a HBCU?”

There are several reasons, including the culture, education, and networking available to students that attend one. Keep reading to take a look at what an HBCU can offer you, and how attending one can help you grow!

The history of HCBUs

HBCUs were created in the mid-1800s to give African Americans a space to educate themselves when other colleges excluded them. As a result, a majority of these schools were established in the southern states. The very existence of these colleges and universities provided access to resources and knowledge that had previously been unavailable, and that continues to be true as the years go on. 

Attending an HBCU meant that there was a possibility to gain a degree as well as gain a career during a time that was especially difficult for African Americans. There were a limited number of jobs, and predominantly black schools usually got outdated or hand-me-down textbooks and supplies. The creation of HBCUs signified a new dawn, and a chance to get the same level of education as their peers. 

HBCUs today

Even though HBCUs are a significant part of history, they only make up about 3% of all colleges and universities in the U.S. Students at HBCUs have a unique chance to experience history and tradition. 

On top of that, they can redefine themselves and what the Black experience means to them. HBCUs are the past as well as the present and the future. They contribute to the success and preparedness of their students today as they always have.

Though Black students are still the majority at any given HBCU, other races are still able to apply. If non-Black students choose to attend, it’s important to be aware of the culture there and respect it. 

Advantages of attending an HBCU

Connection to black faculty

For students enrolled in HBCUs, African American, African, and Caribbean people of color account for 60 percent of the faculty. Compare that statistic to the 6 percent of black faculty teaching at all US colleges and universities. Black graduates report feeling more supported while attending HBCUs because professors/mentors cared about them while encouraging them to pursue goals. 

Cultural Immersion

HBCUs offer their students a chance to fully immerse themselves in black culture and reconnect with their roots. For example, students can get involved in Greek life, specifically the Divine Nine, a group of nine historically Black Greek organizations. The Divine Nine includes Omega Psi Phi, Alpha Kappa Alpha, Delta Sigma Theta, and more. 

There are also clubs and activities that offer you an opportunity to branch out and try a new experience like a majorette squad or a drumline. Environments like these foster collaboration and togetherness that let students know that they aren’t alone.

Locations of HBCUs

The majority of HBCUs are located in southern states, but there are a few in Delaware, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. Applicants have the opportunity to apply to a HBCU in their state and qualify for in-state tuition or venture away from home for a new start. Currently, Alabama is the state with the highest number of HBCUs, but Howard and North Carolina A&T have the most students in attendance.

Related: How to Get In-State Tuition as an Out-of-State Student

Networking opportunities

An important aspect of growing the black community and building generational wealth is connecting students with possible employers and mentors. HBCUs are especially dedicated to alumni networking to show their students that they can reach new heights. 

Representation matters, and showing rather than telling students is a great motivator toward success. Building connections like these allow for students to feel supported and encouraged on their HBCU campus, which can directly impact school performance. 

See also: Top scholarships for Black students      

Disadvantages of attending an HBCU

Decreased government funding

Historically, HBCUs have received less government funding in comparison to predominantly white institutions (PWIs). As a result, alumni are a big part of the funding that HBCUs receive as well as the scholarships they give out.

However, HBCUs actually tend to be less expensive than PWIs, and students have a chance to graduate with lower debt upon graduating. By doing this, HBCUs are able to support a lot of Black families, especially first-generation students and those that are considered low-income. 

See also: Top Scholarships for HBCUs

Outdated facilities

Some HBCUs facilities might be a little outdated. Historical buildings take time to restore and remodel to maintain their historical imprint on society, and they are valuable pieces to these universities. 

However, this can also mean that buildings such as residence halls and libraries can appear dated. Remember, the state of the buildings don’t determine the quality of the education you stand to achieve at an HBCU, or the connections that you can make. 

Lack of diversity in staffing 

While we shared that the majority of the faculty at HBCUs are Black, there is room for improvement. This is especially true in light of the research that demonstrates that students are more likely to thrive at HBCUs. As more Black students and students of color earn graduate degrees and enter academia, the percentage of black faculty will likely increase at HBCUs and across all institutes of higher learning. 

Don’t miss: How to choose a college

Do your research!

Choosing the college and the state that’s right for you is a complex process. It’s important that you utilize all the tools available. Try going on campus tours for all the HBCUs that interest you (video tours are available too!) to start. Don’t be afraid to go sightseeing in the state you’re visiting to get a lay of the land and see if the community is a right fit for you and your lifestyle. 

You can also start looking into out-of-state tuition scholarships to help with your transition. If you’re interested in learning more about each HBCU, check out this website!

Related: Tips for planning a college tour

Key Takeaways

Key Takeaways

  • HBCUs led the crusade for educating African Americans throughout the nation when they were previously unable to
  • HBCUs are predominantly black, but other ethnicities and races can also attend
  • There are several advantages to attending HBCUs, including black cultural immersion, a variety of locations to choose from, and access to mentors and networking
  • HBCUs receive less government funding, which means they are heavily reliant on alumni-giving. However, tuition is usually less expensive and students can graduate with less debt
  • While you might have to deal with some outdated facilities, that won’t hinder the quality of the education you stand to achieve at HBCUs Key Takeaways

Frequently asked questions about choosing a HBCU

What’s the best HBCU?

The answer to this question isn’t really cut and dry. Depending on what you value, any HBCU could be the best fit for you. However, a majority of sources cite Spelman College and Howard University as the top two ranked HBCUs.

How many HBCUs are there?

There are just over 100 HBCUs in the U.S. While this may seem like a small number, you shouldn’t underestimate the impact of HBCUs. There’s a lot that these schools can offer to minority students.

What’s the difference between a PWI and a HBCU?

A PWI is an acronym that stands for predominantly white institution while HBCU stands for a historically Black college and university. There are pros and cons to each, so one isn’t inherently better than the other. Research colleges and pick based on what you’re looking for such as a stellar program for your desired major.