The Best Value Historically Black Colleges and Universities

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In this ranking, we highlight the 50 best value Historically Black Colleges and Universities according to the methodology outlined below.

To compile this ranking, our editors started with an initial pool of 72 historically black colleges and universities identified from College Navigator. Using cost information from College Navigator and data regarding the 20-year ROI from PayScale.com, we awarded points to each school for its affordability and return on investment. We also consulted US News and World Report’s ranking of best HCBUs and awarded points to schools who made the cut. What resulted is this ranking of best value historically black colleges and universities.

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Why Attend Historically Black Colleges and Universities?

There are many reasons to consider attending one of the more than 100 historically black colleges and universities in the United States, and for many prospective students, it is a very personal decision. Many African American students enjoy the comradery of living and studying among fellow black students while others attend HCBUs to honor their culture and ancestry. Many prestigious African Americans have attended historically black colleges, including celebrities, famous athletes, and of course, civil rights leaders. Many students who choose to attend HBCUs enjoy knowing that they are studying on the same campus as these leaders and role models did in days long gone.

All students can benefit from the exceptional sense of community perpetuated by many HCBUs, though. Moreover, some historically black colleges and universities tend to promote more activism than traditionally white institutions of higher education. Students are often passionate and enthusiastic about a wide range of social issues, not only those that specifically affect African Americans.

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Net Price
Under $10,000—3 points
Under $15,000—2 points
Under $20,000—1 point

20-Year Return on ROI
Above $400,000— 4 points
Above $300,000— 3 points
Above $200,000— 2 points

Wow Factor
• 1 point awarded for each unique feature or program that “wowed” us

US News and World Report Recognition as a Top HBCU
Top 10—5 points
Top 20—4 points
Top 40— 3 points

Top 50 Ranking HBCU’s

  1. North Carolina A&T State University
    Location

    Greensboro, NC

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    North Carolina A&T State University is not only one of the top historically black colleges and universities in the US, it is also the largest public historically black university in the country. It is home to 117 undergraduate degree programs, 58 master's degree programs, and 3 PhD programs. Popular majors include business, engineering, and psychology. NCA&T has a large alumni, consisting of more than 55,000 members across the world, including notable graduates such as civil rights leader Jesse Jackson and US Congresswoman Alma Adams. US News & World Report ranked the university #10 on its list of best historically black colleges and universities.

  2. Prairie View A&M University
    Location

    Prairie View, TX

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    A land grant historically black university established in 1876, Prairie View A&M University is the second oldest public institution of higher education in the United States. The school offers 50 undergraduate majors, 37 master's degree programs, and 3 doctoral programs. Popular majors include engineering, nursing, and education. Undergraduate enrollment totals nearly 7,000 and graduate enrollment is almost 2,000. The student to professor ratio is low at 18:1, meaning students receive quality, individualized instruction. US News and World Report ranked Prairie View A&M #30 in their list of best historically black colleges and universities. The school is less selective than some of the others in this ranking, with an 86% acceptance rate.

  3. Florida A&M University
    Location

    Tallahassee, FL

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Florida A&M University is one of the larger historically black colleges and universities in our ranking, enrolling nearly 10,000 students from across the United States and more than 70 different countries. The school offers 54 bachelors degree programs, 29 masters degree programs, 3 professional studies programs, and 12 doctoral programs, including unique programs in areas such as jazz studies, cardiopulmonary sciences, and health informatics. Student life is a priority at FAMU, offering more than 100 various student organizations for students to join, including fraternities and sororities. As a top historically black university, Florida A&M is fairly selective with an acceptance rate of just 51%. It's ranked #7 in US News and World Report's ranking of best historically black colleges and universities.

  4. Tennessee State University
    Location

    Nashville, TN

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Tennessee State University is a top historically black university located just outside of downtown Nashville. Its 7,264 undergraduate students have over 40 undergraduate majors to choose from, and graduate students can pursue one of 24 master's degree programs or 7 doctoral programs. Students also enjoy an active student life with over 100 different student organizations on campus. Notable alumni from Tennessee State include Oprah Winfrey and track and field star Wilma Randolph. The school ranks #22 on US News & World Report's list of best historically black colleges and universities.

  5. Bowie State University
    Location

    Bowie, MD

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Bowie State University was established in 1865, making it one of the oldest historically black colleges and universities in the country. The school is home to 5,669 students, most of them undergraduate. Although the student body is 83% African American, students attend Bowie State from over 21 different countries of origin. All students enjoy personalized instruction as a result of small class sizes, thanks to the impressive 16:1 student to faculty ratio. Bowie State is a comprehensive institute of higher education, offering 22 undergraduate majors, 19 masters degree programs, and 2 doctoral programs, but it leads the country in terms of its number of African American graduates in the fields of education and technology. US News & World Report ranks BSU #26 in its publication of top historically black colleges and universities.

  6. Howard University
    Location

    Washington, DC

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Howard University is a top historically black university as well as a private high research activity institution of higher education. The university is comprised of 13 different schools and colleges and offers degree programs in over 120 academic fields of study. Howard is a leader in STEM fields and produces more African American doctoral graduates in the fields of science and engineering than almost any other university in the country. It's one of the larger schools in this ranking with more than 10,000 students and ranks #2 in US News & World Report's list of best historically black colleges and universities. Its location just two miles from the US capital enables students to secure coveted internships and pursue meaningful networking opportunities.

  7. Winston-Salem State University
    Location

    Winston-Salem, NC

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Winston-Salem State University is a public historically black university accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. The student body consists of 5,107 total students, half of whom are first-generation college students. The school is less selective than many of the other schools in our ranking with a 60% acceptance rate. Class sizes are exceptionally small as the school boasts a 14:1 student to faculty ratio, meaning students receive plenty of opportunities for one-on-one teaching. Winston-Salem State ranks #32 on US News & World Report's list of best historically black colleges and universities and is in the top 100 Southern universities according to regional rankings.

  8. Southern University and A&M College
    Location

    Baton Rouge, LA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Southern University and A&M College is a top historically black university offering a wide range of academic programs on both the undergraduate and graduate levels. Enrolled students can choose from among 30 baccalaureate majors and 22 master's degree programs, including popular majors such as business, management, marketing, homeland security, engineering, and psychology. The student-faculty ratio is just 16:1, and the vast majority—over 96%-of academic programs hold special national accreditation. US News & World Report ranks Southern University and A&M College #40 in its publication of best historically black colleges and universities.

  9. Morgan State University
    Location

    Baltimore, MD

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Morgan State University is a top historically black university located in northeast Baltimore City. The school is a comprehensive public university offering a wide range of bachelors, master's, and even doctoral programs with a particular emphasis on the arts and sciences on the undergraduate level. Popular majors include business, management, marketing, and engineering. US News & World Report ranks the school #20 on its list of top historically black colleges and universities, and the school continually ranks high in terms of the number of doctoral degrees awarded to African Americans. Morgan State's student to faculty ratio is among the lowest in this ranking at 14:1, meaning its students form meaningful professional relationships with faculty members.

  10. Hampton University
    Location

    Hampton, VA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Hampton University is a comprehensive historically black university offering degree programs ranging from associate's degrees to doctoral degrees. The school ranks #3 in US News and World Reports list of best historically black colleges and universities and is regionally ranked #18 across all Southern universities. It is home to 4,646 students—most of them undergraduates—from 49 different states and 35 nations and territories. Hampton boasts the lowest student to faculty ratio in this ranking at 9:1. Notable alumni include Martin Luther King Jr.'s mother Alberta Williams King as well as Booker T. Washington.

Historically black colleges and universities, sometimes referred to as HBCUs, are those institutes of higher education that were established prior to the year 1964 in order to fill the gap left by the many colleges and universities who at the time served only white students due to segregation. Even so, these institutions have always been open to the enrollment of students of all races and ethnicities, and many have become increasingly diverse in recent years. Still, the primary mission of these schools is to provide for the education and enrichment of African Americans.

There are 107 historically black colleges and universities in the United States located in 19 different states across the country as well as in the District of Columbia and the US Virgin Islands. As one might expect, the vast majority of these schools are located in former slave states, but there are a few exceptions. There are different types of HBCUs, including community colleges, four-year schools, public institutions, private universities, and specialty institutions like medical and law schools.

Historically Black Colleges and Universities: Background

Prior to the Civil War, there were no institutes of higher education for African Americans. To make matters worse, some parts of the country prohibited the education of black students. In 1837, Richard Humphreys founded the Institute for Colored Youth in Pennsylvania in order to provide education to students of color. The institute began as an agricultural and mechanical school and did not offer formal degrees until 1913 when it began training teachers. By then, it had changed its name to Cheyney University. It remains the oldest institute of postsecondary education for African Americans today. In 1854, Lincoln University was founded as the first degree-granting institute of higher education for African Americans. Today, it remains a vibrant historically black university and is ranked #20 among all HCBUs by US News & World Report. Two years later in 1856, Wilberforce University was founded as the first institute of higher education owned and operated by African Americans. The university continues to provide undergraduate and graduate degrees today.

With the few exceptions above, many African Americans (especially those located in the Southern states) were still hard-pressed to find institutions willing to provide them with any kind of postsecondary education until the year 1890 when the second Morrill Act was passed. The act mandated former Confederate states to open colleges for African American students that paralleled the traditionally white universities established by the first Morrill Act. This act allowed states to fund institutes of higher education through proceeds from the sale of federal land. The resulting schools became known as land grant colleges, and they were established in 17 states.

In 1896, the Supreme Court ruled that African Americans must be granted “separate but equal” facilities, including those that provided educational services, in the landmark case of Plessy v. Ferguson. In reality, though, institutes of higher education for black students often received less public funding, and therefore, were almost always of lower quality than traditionally white schools. In many cases, the teachers were poorly prepared, and important equipment and resources such as textbooks, for instance, were often inferior. In 1954, Plessy v. Ferguson was overturned by another landmark decision in Brown v. Board of Education when the Supreme Court called for the desegregation of all schools in the United States. Though segregation is no longer an issue in the US, HCBUs still honor their origins and continue their plight for excellence in education for African Americans.

Historically Black Colleges and Universities Today

At the time of their establishment, historically black colleges and universities were the only option for African Americans who desired to pursue higher education. Thus, their principle purpose was to educate black students. Today, students from every race and background have equal access to higher education, so the mission of HBCUs has evolved. Today, HBCUS have the unique challenge of honoring their past and traditions while simultaneously encouraging and embracing diversity. Historically black colleges and universities have become increasingly diverse over the years. The National Center for Education Statistics reports that 21% of students attending HCBUs were non-Black students. This is up from 15% in 1976.

Historically Black Student Clubs and Organizations

Generally speaking, historically black colleges and universities have exceptionally close-knit and active student organizations. Many of the students in this ranking, for instance, have more than 100 student clubs and organizations on campus for students to choose from. Some of these organizations seek to honor African American culture. Some examples of such clubs and organizations are listed below.

  • The Black Graduate Student Association (BGSA)
  • Black Men Making a Difference (BMMAD)
  • Black Student Union (BSU)
  • Black Women’s Caucus (BWC)
  • National Pan-Hellenic Council
  • National Society of Black Engineers

Of course, students enrolled at historically black colleges and universities are encouraged to join other types of student associations as well, including those focused on a particular academic area of study as well as clubs and organizations centered around extracurricular interests such as sports, music, politics, community service, social activism, hobbies, and more.

Historically Black College and University Classes

What are classes like at historically black colleges and universities? Unlike many traditionally white schools, historically black schools tend to have smaller class sizes and strive for low student to faculty ratios. For instance, none of the schools listed in this ranking have a student to faculty ratio of over 20:1. These smaller, more intimate settings foster a learning environment that is much more effective for some students, one in which answers to questions can be quickly and directly addressed, and students can form meaningful and collaborative relationships with their professors and classmates. Such classrooms also facilitate mentorships that can make the difference between success and failure for many students.

When you attend a historically black college or university, the size of the school will typically be small as well. The largest school in this ranking, for example, enrolls just over 10,000 students. Smaller enrollment numbers usually translate to a more familial, community-like environment many students will find uplifting. Leaving home for the first time can be intimidating for any student, especially first-generation college students, and being in an environment where someone remembers your name can make all the difference.

Historically Black Colleges and Universities: Academics

Academics should always be at the top of the list when choosing an institute of higher education. Historically black colleges and universities offer academic programs that parallel or, in some cases, supersede traditionally white schools in terms of rigor and breadth. Desegregation plans enacted by the US Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights has enabled these schools to establish special academic programs, including in-demand offerings in engineering, pharmacy, and computer science, for example. HCBUS offer degree programs on every postsecondary level, including associate’s degrees, bachelor’s degrees, master’s degrees, and PhDs. However, the vast majority of degrees conferred at historically black colleges are baccalaureate degrees, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

College courses are known for being rigorous, and this can be a transition for many students who are accustomed to the ease of high school classes. There’s good news for those considering historically black colleges and universities, though. Those students who may struggle academically will find plenty of support at these schools. Because they were initially established to provide assistance to educationally disadvantaged populations, they are devoted to providing adequate remediation and assistance to struggling students. This may come in the form of additional academic labs, tutoring programs, remedial courses, and other forms of educational support. As a result of all of this extra support, historically black colleges and universities typically have higher than average graduation rates.

Financial Aid for Students Attending Historically Black Colleges and Universities

Cost is almost always a factor for students when choosing a postsecondary school. Although grants and loans are possibilities for students, despite what type of college or university they choose to attend, scholarships are among the most coveted forms of financial assistance. Some organizations offer specific scholarships for students planning to attend a historically black college or university. These scholarships can cover all or part of the costs of attending college, including tuition, books, housing, and other expenses. Depending on the amount of the scholarship being offered, this could be the deciding factor for students considering enrollment at a HCBU. Some examples can be found below:

  • Diversity Advancement Program Scholarship
  • Buick Achievers Scholarship
  • Jackie Robinson Foundation Scholarship
  • Ronald McDonald House Charities/African-American Future Achievers Scholarship
  • Xerox Minority Scholarship

It is important to note that these scholarships can be extremely competitive. Students must make excellent grades in high school and score high on college admissions exams such as the SAT and ACT in order to qualify.

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