Historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) were established to serve the educational needs of black Americans. Prior to the time of their establishment, and for many years afterwards, blacks were generally denied admission to predominately white institutions (PWIs). As a result, HBCUs became the principle means for providing postsecondary education to black Americans.

Today, the over 100 2-year and 4-year, HBCU public and private colleges and universities are fulfilling educational goals far beyond those initially set. President George Bush described the unique mission of black colleges as follows:

“At a time when many schools barred their doors to black Americans, these colleges offered the best, and often the only, opportunity for a higher education.” (2018 U.S. Department of Education)

Due to the quality of education and low cost of attendance, HBCU student populations have become more diverse, with the student populations at some schools becoming primarily non-black. Because HBCUs can provide unique opportunities for students in both the highest and lowest GPA and test score ranges. Many HBCUs offer full merit-based scholarship opportunities for students with high GPAs and test scores, such as the Distinguished Presidential Scholarship at Tuskegee University and Board of Trustees Scholarship at Xavier University of Louisiana. For students at the lower range of GPAs and test scores, many HBCUs offer less restrictive admissions policies including 40 institutions that have no SAT/ACT Score requirements, such as Voorhees College, Virginia Union, and Benedict.

Beyond low cost and merit-based scholarship opportunities, many HBCUs have relationships with other institutions, students may attend selective institutions through domestic exchange programs, such as the Spelman College domestic exchange programs with such schools as Dartmouth, Duke, NYU, and Stanford. Some HBCUs also offer domestic exchange programs with colleges in their state, such as the UNC Exchange Programs. Students may also earn dual degrees from such partner schools as Vanderbilt, Tulane, and Georgia Tech; and the 3-2 (Physics and Electrical Engineering) program between North Carolina Central University and North Carolina State University.

Many HBCUs offer Honors College Programs, such as:

For many students, HBCUs offer a unique level of support and access to internship opportunities with corporate partners and industry professionals. In the case of one Xavier University student, her professor submitted an application for a full fellowship to the Columbia University Graduate School. Needless to say, she was speechless when she opened the letter offering the full, all-expenses paid graduate fellowship to Columbia University where she went on to receive her master’s degree.


  • Identify HBCU opportunities based on your body of work, career aspirations, and family’s financial need.

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Guiding Questions

  • Are you interested in attending an HBCU for the cultural experience?
  • Are you interested in attending an HBCU to reduce your overall college costs and possibly work your way into scholarship opportunities?
  • Are you interested in attending an HBCU because your body or work would qualify you for merit-based scholarship opportunities?