When picking out a college, you need to choose the institution that’s best for you. Size, location and price are important. But for many black students graduating from high school today, an even greater consideration is whether or not to attend a historically black college or university. Check out the pros and cons to decide if one of these schools is right for you.
A Record of Achievement
Historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) are institutions established before 1964 whose main mission is the education of black Americans. Presently, nearly 300,000 students are enrolled in the 100 HBCUs across the country.
HBCUs have made a name for themselves with the achievements of their impressive alumni. Black leaders like Martin Luther King, Jr., Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. Dubois all attended HCBUs. In the United States, 50 percent of black lawyers, 40 percent of black engineers and 70 percent of black physicians graduated from HBCUs. Nine percent of black college students are enrolled at HBCUs, which award 16 percent of the bachelor’s degrees earned by African-Americans.
Support and Personalized Attention
Graduates of HBCUs like Nikki Hughes, an alumnus of Knoxville College, think this success comes from the supportive community within black schools. “I received one-on-one attention,” said Hughes, “It was a family atmosphere, where people wanted to know how you were doing.”
According to Mary Hollens, coordinator of off-campus programs for Lewis College of Business in Michigan, as soon as students walk through the door of a HBCU, there is the feeling that they can succeed. “Historically black colleges and universities offer a supportive environment to help students achieve.”
To fulfill this mission, HBCUs offer smaller classes in which students receive personalized attention from professors. Professors and administrators get to know the students better and serve as role models from the African-American community. Both the administration and the student population of HBCUs present an encouraging culture and history-conscious atmosphere.
Challenges Facing HBCUs
HCBUs’ commitment to their mission creates special challenges as well. One of the biggest challenges they face is finding the funding for premier resources. Because HBCUs are committed to helping students with fewer financial resources, they have to provide more for students with fewer tuition dollars. These financial challenges make it hard for HBCUs to keep up with other schools in technology, facilities and financial aid. It has also made it difficult for HBCUs to offer competitive salaries to their professors. The NCES reports that the faculty at HBCUs earn around 80 percent of the national average.
An Abiding Belief in the Mission
Despite these challenges, students and professors are continually attracted to HBCUs because they believe in their mission. Private companies and groups across the nation are also believers; organizations like the Wal-Mart Foundation, Lilly Endowment and Giant Food Corporation offer financial support to HBCUs. Some state governments have also provided financial assistance.
Historically black colleges and universities offer a unique approach to education by creating an environment of support, tradition and culture. Visit an HBCU on your college tour of colleges to see if they offer the right match for you.
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Historically black colleges and universities, or HBCUs, are schools that were founded on the belief that everyone deserves access to a college education. More specifically, the Higher Education Act of 1965 defines an HBCU as “any historically black college or university that was established prior to 1964, whose principal mission was, and is, the education of black Americans.” There are more than 100 HBCUs in the United States, including public and private institutions and law and medical schools.
If you’re considering adding an HBCU to the list of colleges to which you’re applying, here’s a look at just a few of the reasons why one of these schools could be right for you.
1. A first-rate education
Some of the best colleges and universities in the country are HBCUs. Schools such as Hampton University, Howard University, Morehouse College, and Spelman College all have a long and illustrious history of offering African American students a world-class education.
2. Caring professors and faculty
The aforementioned top-notch education you’ll find at an HBCU is delivered by a host of accomplished and caring professors and faculty. Case in point: Dr. Fred A. Bonner II, a prominent scholar whose research focuses on African American males, recently left Rutgers University to accept a position at Prairie View A&M, where he’ll continue his work on initiatives such as the HBCU Deans Think-Tank and the Black Male Summit.
3. Classes and extracurricular activities tailored to African Americans
Many HBCUs offer classes and extracurricular activities that can be harder to come by at other schools. Students often find that the courses offered at an HBCU give them a one-of-a-kind opportunity to explore African American history and experiences.
4. A supportive atmosphere
At an HBCU, you’ll find people who come from similar backgrounds and circumstances and who have had similar cultural experiences. There’s an atmosphere of community and collaboration among the student body, and the professors and faculty will be there to help nurture and guide you throughout your college education.
HBCUs do primarily serve African American students, but that doesn’t mean you’re going to have a limited cultural experience. On the contrary, people from all over the world come to the United States to attend HBCUs, which results in diverse student bodies.
As previously mentioned, HBCUs were established specifically with the goal of increasing African Americans’ access to a college education, so students attending these schools can and should feel empowered by the fact that they’re actively defending and taking advantage of their rights.
7. A chance to continue the legacy
If your parents, grandparents, and/or other family members attended an HBCU and you decide to follow suit, you can take pride in the fact that you’re continuing an important legacy. Of course, that shouldn’t be the only factor that plays into where you decide to attend college, but if you do end up at a loved one’s alma mater, you'll be taking part in a meaningful family tradition.
8. Alumni associations for graduates of all HBCUs
Though most schools have their own individual alumni associations, there are also several alumni associations which graduates of any HBCU can join, such as the National HBCU Alumni Association, the DC Metro HBCU Alumni Alliance, and the Atlanta HBCU Alumni Alliance, just to name a few. Such organizations can give you valuable networking opportunities throughout your career.
9. Scholarships and grants
If college costs are a concern for you, you’ll be happy to hear that there are many scholarships and grants available for African American students in general and HBCU students in particular—and best of all, you can start finding them right now with the CollegeXpress scholarship search!
10. You’ll be in good company
Check out just of the few of the famous folks who graduated from HBCUs:
Interested in learning more about historically black colleges and universities? Here’s a complete list of HBCUs from the Department of Education.
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