Historically Black

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Historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) are institutions of higher education in the United States that were established before 1964 with the intention of serving the black community.[1]

There are 106 historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) in the United States, including public and private, two-year and four-year institutions, medical schools and community colleges.[2][3] Most are located in the former slave states and territories of the U.S. Notable exceptions include Central State University (Ohio), Wilberforce University (Ohio), Cheyney University of Pennsylvania, Lewis College of Business (Detroit, Michigan), Lincoln University (Pennsylvania), and the former Western University (Kansas).


Most HBCUs were established after the American Civil War. However, Cheyney University of Pennsylvania, established in 1837, Lincoln University (Pennsylvania), established in 1854, and Wilberforce University, established in 1856, were established for blacks prior to the American Civil War.

The Higher Education Act of 1965, as amended, defines a "part B institution" as: "...any historically black college or university that was established prior to 1964, whose principal mission was, and is, the education of black Americans, and that is accredited by a nationally recognized accrediting agency or association determined by the Secretary [of Education] to be a reliable authority as to the quality of training offered or is, according to such an agency or association, making reasonable progress toward accreditation."[4][5] Part B of the 1965 Act provides for direct federal aid to Part B institutions.

In 1862, the Morrill Act provided for land grant colleges in each state. Some educational institutions in the North or West were open to blacks since before the Civil War. However, 17 states, mostly in the South, generally excluded blacks from their land grant colleges. In response, the second Morrill Act of 1890 was passed to require states to establish a separate land grant college for blacks if blacks were being excluded from the then existing land grant college. Many of the HBCUs were founded in response to the Second Morrill Act. These land grant schools continue to receive annual federal funding for their research, extension and outreach activities. The Higher Education Act of 1965 established a program for direct federal grants to HBCUs, including federal matching of private endowment contributions.[6]

Other educational institutions currently have large numbers of blacks in their student body, but as they were founded (or opened their doors to African Americans) after the implementation of the Sweatt v. Painter and Brown v. Board of Education rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court (the court decisions which outlawed racial segregation of public education facilities) and the Higher Education Act of 1965, they are not historically black colleges, but have been termed "predominantly black."

Starting in 2001, the libraries of several HBCUs began a conversation about ways to pool their resources and work collaboratively. In 2003, this partnership was formalized as the HBCU Library Alliance, "a consortium that supports the collaboration of information professionals dedicated to providing an array of resources designed to strengthen historically black colleges and Universities and their constituents."[7]

Current status

In 2004, the US Department of Education published a study of HBCUs that found that, as of 2001, HBCUs accounted for 13% of black higher education enrollment.[8]

In 2007, the Thurgood Marshall College Fund published a study of minority recruiting practices by Fortune 400 companies and by government agencies that found that 13% of the college graduates were recruited from HBCUs and 87% were recruited from non-HBCU schools.[9]

The 2009 Stimulus Bill included more than $1.3 billion of additional federal support for HBCU campuses.[10]

Of the 104 HBCU institutions in America today, 27 offer doctoral programs and 52 provide graduate degree programs at the Master's level. At the undergraduate level, 83 of the HBCUs offer a Bachelor's degree program and 38 of these schools offer associate degrees.[11] Roughly 10% of the HBCUs offered online degrees in 2013.

The portion of Bachelor degrees awarded to black students by HBCUs has steadily dropped from 35% in 1976 to 21.5% in 2001.[12] From 1976 to 2001, total HBCU enrollment grew from 180,059 to 222,453, with most of this increase being attributable to the growth of female black enrollment from 88,379 to 117,766.[13]

Following the enactment of Civil Rights laws in the 1960s, all educational institutions that receive federal funding have undertaken affirmative action to increase their racial diversity. Some historically black colleges now have non-black majorities, notably West Virginia State University and Bluefield State College whose student body has been over 80% white since the mid-1960s. Many non-state-supported HBCUs are struggling financially, due to the increased cost of delivering private education to students and declining financial aid for students.[14]

Racial diversity at HBCUs

As colleges work harder to maintain enrollment levels and because of increased racial harmony and the low cost of tuition, the percentage of non-African American enrollment has tended to climb.[15][16] The following table highlights HBCUs with high non-African American enrollments:

Racial Diversity at HBCUs[17]
College name Percent African American Percent Other
Bluefield State College 13% for 2009–10 school year[18] 75% for 2010–11 school year
West Virginia State University 17% for 2010-2011[19] 72% for 2010–11 school year
Kentucky State University 64% for 2010–11 school year 34% for 2010–11 school year
Delaware State University 70% for 2010–11 school year 25% for 2010–11 school year
Lincoln University (Pennsylvania) 79% for 2010–11 school year 18% for 2010–11 school year [20]
University of the District of Columbia 74% for 2010–11 school year 17% for 2010–11 school year [21]
Elizabeth City State University 81% for 2010–11 school year 17% for 2010–11 school year
Fayetteville State University 78% for 2010-11 school year 16% for 2010–11 school year
Winston Salem State University 81% for 2010–11 school year 16% for 2010–11 school year [22]
Xavier University of Louisiana 74% for 2010–11 school year 13% for 2010–11 school year [23]

Other HBCUs with relatively high non-African American student populations

The following list illustrates the percentage of white student populations currently attending historically black colleges and universities according to statistical profiles compiled by the U.S. News and World Report Best Colleges 2011 edition: Langston University 12%; Shaw University 12%; Tennessee State University 12%; University of Maryland Eastern Shore 12%; North Carolina Central University 10%. The U.S. News and World Reports statistical profiles indicate that several other HBCUs have relatively significant percentages of non-African American student populations consisting of Asian, Hispanic, International and white American students.[24]

Special academic programs

HBCU libraries have formed the HBCU Library Alliance. That alliance together with Cornell University have a joint program to promote the digitalization of HBCU collections. The project is funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.[25]

Additionally, an increasing number of historically black colleges and universities are offering online education programs. As of November 23, 2010, 19 historically black colleges and universities offer online degree programs.[26] Much of the growth in these programs is driven by partnerships with online educational entrepreneurs like Ezell Brown.

See also

African American portal


Further reading

  • Minor, James T., “A Contemporary Perspective on the Role of Public hbcus: Perspicacity from Mississippi,” Journal of Negro Education, 77 (Fall 2008), 323–35.

External links

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  • White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities – details about this federal initiative, including its history and recent achievements
  • Black College Wire – news service to promote the journalistic work of students at predominantly black colleges and universities
  • UNCF.org
  • HBCU Digest.com
  • HBCU Connect.com
  • Information about HBCU from Peterson's including tuition, selectivity and cost
  • ThurgoodMarshallCollegeFund.net
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