There’s a lot of talk these days about HBCUs. Some people wonder whether they’re still necessary, while others are touting their benefits. When most people hear the acronym HBCU, they think of historically Black colleges and universities. However, there’s so much more to these institutions than just that. In fact, HBCUs are some of the most unique and fascinating colleges in the country!
Here are right things you should know about them:
1. There are over 100 HBCUs in the United States
HBCUs are institutions of higher education that were established before 1964 with the intention of primarily serving Black students. Today, HBCUs are open to all students and represent over 100 different colleges in the United States. Some of them include Howard University, Spelman College, Morehouse College, and Florida A&M University.
They were founded with the mission of providing educational opportunities for Black students who had historically been excluded from higher education. Before the Civil War, most colleges and universities in America were only open to white men. Because of this, few colleges trained Black people for careers as ministers, doctors, lawyers, or teachers—jobs many African-Americans pursued during Reconstruction after the Civil War ended.
However, after slavery was abolished following the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment, the federal government began to pass laws that limited Black people’s access to public institutions, including colleges and universities. This meant Black students were excluded from enrolling at existing colleges and universities around the country, so they banded together with local leaders who wanted their communities educated, pooled resources, created their own schools, and fought for their civil rights.
2. Many of them were founded by African American leaders
Many people don’t realize that a lot of HBCUs were created before the Civil War. During this time, Black students weren’t allowed to attend existing colleges and universities, so they banded together and formed their own schools. One of such early presidents includes Richard Theodore Greener of Howard University School of Law, who was the first African-American on the faculty of a southern white university.
3. HBCUs are often called “the cradle of Black leadership”
Many of the notable movements for civil rights started at HBCUs. This includes the Atlanta University Center, which consisted of Clark, Morehouse College, Spelman College, and Morris Brown College. Among the graduates of HBCUs are some very important people who have made a difference in America. Martin Luther King, Jr., United States Vice President Kamala Harris and Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, Virginia state governor Douglas Wilder all earned their degrees from an African-American college or university before going on to become Civil Rights leaders while Ruth Simmons was president at Brown University
4. Not all Black people go to HBCUs
This leads us to another very important thing you should know about HBCUs: they’re not just for Black students! Although they were initially created to serve African-Americans who had been excluded from higher education, they now enroll non-Black students. So if you’re thinking about attending an HBCU, don’t assume it’s because you’re Black. These institutions welcome students of all races and ethnicities.
5. Many of them are located in the southern United States
Another thing you should know about HBCUs is that many of them are located in the southern states! More than half of all HBCUs can be found there. Many factors contribute to this—including historical reasons and proximity to other schools that already existed, which students could transfer to and receive a degree.
6. They can help you get into graduate programs and professional schools
Many of the nation’s top colleges and universities give heavy preference to applicants who attend an HBCU! This includes Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Columbia, Northwestern University, Johns Hopkins University, Colgate-Rochester Crozer Divinity School, Tuskegee University, Washington & Jefferson College, Spelman College, Smith College, Morehouse College, Dartmouth College, American University, Gallaudet University, Gonzaga University, Boston College, The Ohio State University, and many more! So if you want to increase your chances of attending one of these schools, applying to an HBCU is a great idea.
7. They offer several different types of financial aid
Many students assume that HBCUs are only for low-income students who can’t afford college tuition. However, just like other colleges in America, they offer all sorts of financial aid opportunities! While some require certain SAT scores or GPA levels before offering merit scholarships, others will give you the same amount as any student that receives funding from the US Department of Education. There are also HBCUs that don’t offer merit scholarships at all—meaning anyone can receive it as long as they apply and are accepted!
8. They’re not the same as predominantly White institutions
Although HBCUs were initially created for Black students, you’ll notice that a lot of Predominantly White Institutions (PWIs) have added HBCU programs to their institutions over time! For example, many leading universities have started offering more classes on Black history and culture.
In some cases, those who established PWIs decided to create those new programs because they wanted to include Black students in higher education. In other cases, however, white administrations saw an opportunity to tap into potential markets by creating these new academic opportunities—and then market themselves as places where diversity was valued.
Some people argue that this shows how it can be difficult for people from different backgrounds to truly understand each other. After all, it would be difficult—if not impossible —for someone who doesn’t identify with a certain race to create an academic program that caters to Black students.
Historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) are a vital part of American history. They offer students unique opportunities, financial aid, and scholarships that aren’t available at other institutions. While some people may think that HBCUs only serve low-income students, this isn’t the case. Most HBCUs have a specialty or focus such as business, education, science, engineering etc., which makes them an attractive choice for many students. If you’re interested in attending an HBCU, be sure to visit http://www.hbculibraries.org/ to learn more about these amazing schools!