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Historically black colleges and universities

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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] They now admit students of all races and in recent years some have lost their black majorities.

There are 106 historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) in the United States, including public and private institutions, community and four-year institutions, medical and law schools.[2][3] Most were created in the aftermath of the American Civil War and are located in the former slave states, although a few notable exceptions exist.


Most HBCUs were established after the American Civil War, often with the assistance of northern religious missionary organizations. However, Cheyney University of Pennsylvania (1837), Lincoln University (Pennsylvania) (1854), and Wilberforce University (1856), were established for blacks prior to the American Civil War. Established in 1865, Shaw University was the first HBCU in the South to be established after 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. But 17 states, mostly in the South, had segregated systems and generally excluded black students from their land grant colleges. In response, Congress passed the second Morrill Act of 1890, requiring states to establish a separate land grant college for blacks if blacks were being excluded from the existing land grant college. Many of the HBCUs were founded by states to satisfy 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 may 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 (1954) 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 classified as historically black colleges, but have been termed "predominantly black."

Starting in 2001, directors of libraries of several HBCUs began discussions 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 107 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 black females 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]
North Carolina A&T State University 88.11% for 2013–14 school year 11.89% for 2013–14 school year[24]

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 Report's 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.[25]

Special academic programs

HBCU libraries have formed the HBCU Library Alliance. That alliance together with Cornell University have a joint program to promote the digitization of HBCU collections. The project is funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.[26]

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.[27] Much of the growth in these programs is driven by partnerships with online educational entrepreneurs like Ezell Brown.

See also


  1. "White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities". 2008-04-11. Retrieved 2008-04-23. 
  2. "List of HBCUs". White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities. United States Department of Education. 2007-08-17. Retrieved 2008-02-08. 
  3. Roach, Ronald. "American Baptist College Designated as a Historically Black Institution". Diverse: Issues In Higher Education. Cox, Matthews, and Associates, Inc. Retrieved 29 April 2013. 
  4. U.S Department of Education (2008-01-15). "HBCUs: A National Resource". White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities. Retrieved 2008-02-08. 
  5. 20 U.S.C. § 1061.
  6. 20 U.S.C. § 1062.
  7. "HBCU Library Alliance". 2010-04-23. Retrieved 2010-05-15. 
  8. "Historically Black Colleges and Universities,1976 to 2001" (PDF). Dept. of Education. September 2004. p. 2. Retrieved 2010-01-19. 
  9. "How Corporations and Government Recruit Talent From Historically Black Colleges and Universities" (PDF). Thurgood Marshall College Fund. 2007. Retrieved 2010-01-24. 
  10. "Recession hits black colleges hard". Reuters. 2009-01-15. 
  11. Historically Black Colleges and Universities | American School Search
  12. "Historically Black Colleges and Universities,1976 to 2001" (PDF). Dept. of Education. September 2004. p. 4. Retrieved 2010-01-19. 
  13. "Historically Black Colleges and Universities,1976 to 2001" (PDF). Dept. of Education. September 2004. p. 31. Retrieved 2010-01-19. 
  14. Endo, Sandra (August 12, 2009). "Black colleges struggling". CNN. Retrieved August 13, 2009. 
  15. Black Colleges: More Whites, Latino’s Attending HBCU’s | Breaking News for Black America. (2010-10-07). Retrieved on 2013-08-09.
  16. Why Black Colleges Might Be the Best Bargains
  17. Apart No More? HBCUs Heading Into an Era of Change -
  18. Pastel, Ralph (October 15, 2009). "STUDENT PROFILE ANALYSIS FALL 2009 CENSUS" (PDF). BLUEFIELD STATE COLLEGE. p. 2. Retrieved 2010-01-21. 
  19. "West Virginia State University". Retrieved 2010-12-01. 
  20. U.S. News & World Report Best Colleges, 2011 ed.Directory p252
  21. U.S. News & World Report Best Colleges, 2011 ed.Directory p151
  22. U.S. News & World Report Best Colleges, 2011 ed.Directory p234
  23. U.S. News & World Report Best Colleges, 2011 ed.Directory p182
  24. "Preeminence 2020: Embracing Our Past, Creating Our Future" (PDF). North Carolina A&T. Retrieved 23 March 2014. 
  25. US News & World Report Best Colleges, 2011 ed. Directory p. 129
  26. "HBCU Library Alliance—Cornell University Library Digitization Initiative Update" (PDF). 2006. Retrieved 2010-12-01. 
  27. "Modest Gains for Black Colleges Online". 2010. Retrieved 2012-01-04. 

Further reading

  • Betsey, Charles L., ed. Historically Black colleges and universities (Transaction Publishers, 2011)
  • Cohen, Rodney T. The Black Colleges of Atlanta (College History Series). 
  • Gasman, Marybeth, and Christopher L. Tudico, eds. Historically Black colleges and universities (Palgrave Macmillan, 2008)
  • Mays, Benjamin E. "The Significance of the Negro Private and Church-Related College," Journal of Negro Education (1960) 29#3 pp. 245-251 in JSTOR
  • Minor, James T., “A Contemporary Perspective on the Role of Public hbcus: Perspicacity from Mississippi,” Journal of Negro Education, 77 (Fall 2008), 323–35.
  • Palmer, Robert T., Adriel A. Hilton, and Tiffany P. Fountaine, eds. Black graduate education at historically Black colleges and universities: Trends, experiences, and outcomes (IAP, 2012)
  • Stephen, Provasnik; Shafer, Linda L. (2004). "Historically Black Colleges and Universities, 1976 to 2001". Historically Black Colleges and Universities, 1976 to 2001 (NCES 2004–062). Washington, DC: Government Printing Office: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. 
  • Roebuck, Julian B., et al. eds. Historically Black colleges and universities: Their place in American higher education (1993) online

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