Historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) are rare gems; out of more than 2600 regionally accredited colleges and universities in the US, there are just 101 institutions that were founded as African-American colleges. And there will never be any more: by Department of Education guidelines, a school only qualifies as an HBCU if it was founded before 1964, the year the Civil Rights Act outlawed racial segregation.
What is an HBCU?
Most HBCUs were founded in segregated states that refused African-Americans access to higher education in public colleges and universities, and in many private colleges as well. In some cases, states founded HBCUs under duress, required by the Second Morrill Land Grant Act to establish public research universities for black citizens. In other cases, HBCUs began as public teachers colleges to train black teachers for segregated schools. But just as often, HBCUs sprang up from the grassroots, from African-American leaders, churches, and communities deciding that if they were going to be refused entry, they would make their own way.
Historically Black Colleges Today
Today’s HBCUs carry on that tradition. HBCUs have faced hardships in recent years; financial challenges, demographic changes, and competition has made many consider HBCUs an endangered species. But, just as historically black colleges forged their way through the past, often with discouraging odds against them, today’s HBCUs are looking to the future.
The most successful HBCUs today are reconsidering what makes an HBCU, and leaning into the strengths that made a century and a half of transformative African-American education possible. Unity in diversity, educational rigor, student support, and a confident, sometimes stubborn insistence on engagement with the real world (not the ivory tower) characterizes HBCUs.
The modern HBCU is taking on a very different look than yesterday’s. Outreach to other minority groups, especially Hispanics and Latinos, carries on the HBCU commitment to seeing the potential in every student. Outreach to working adults and nontraditional students carries on the HBCU commitment to the real world of work. And investments in science, technology, and professional studies ensure that HBCUs will be represented in the leadership of 21st-century business, government, education, and every facet of American life.
The HBCU College Ranking
HBCUs are dear to Value Colleges’ heart. The needs of minority students, low-income students, first-generation college students, working adults, and other nontraditional students have been part of the HBCU mission for generations. Prospective HBCU students need to know that their college investment will have a real return for them, that’s what the Value Colleges HBCU ranking is all about.
Value Colleges compiles a range of data to determine what colleges and universities can provide the balance of quality, affordability, and opportunity to be considered a best value. We ranked America HBCUs based on four metrics:
- Reputation (based on U.S. News & World Report ranking)
- ROI (based on College Scorecard data)
- Real Cost (nonresident, based on IPEDs data)
- Graduation Rate (based on Department of Education data)
By bringing together all of these elements, Value Colleges has put together our definitive ranking of the historically black colleges and universities that have been proven to give graduates what they need – a degree that will show a real return on their college investment.
Florida A&M University
Founded in 1887, Florida A&M University is Florida’s only public historically black university, and a crucial part of Florida’s STEM research and professional studies. Florida A&M was created under the Morrill Land Grant Act, at a time when Florida’s segregated higher education system required a separate land-grant university for black students. As a land-grant institution, Florida A&M was built on agriculture and technology, and that heritage has made Florida A&M the nation’s top HBCU for research, according to the National Science Foundation. FAMU is also ranked the top public HBCU in the nation by U.S. News & World Report.
Florida A&M is a center for research in Florida, from the Center for Viticulture and Small Fruit Research to the Sustainability Institute. Through centers like this, and the work of faculty and students, FAMU creates knowledge tied to Florida’s identity and future. Among HBCUs, FAMU is one of the most important institutions preparing engineers, nurses, pharmacists, and lawyers, while other unique programs include jazz studies. Florida A&M has often been cited as a best value by sources like U.S. News, Forbes, and the Princeton Review, and has been praised by the Social Mobility Index for its work raising students into professional life. With public university costs and world-renowned programs, Florida A&M is a top HBCU value.
Prairie View A&M University
Part of the Texas A&M University System, Prairie View A&M University has been providing STEM and professional education for African-American Texans for nearly a century and a half. Founded in 1876 as Texas’ land-grant institution for black students (and the state’s second public college), Prairie View A&M was built to provide education in agriculture and mechanical science. Over the years, though, PVAMU built upon that foundation of practical, applied science learning into a center of research and discovery. Prairie View is widely ranked as one of Texas’ top institutions for minority students.
Prairie View is particularly known as a STEM leader – with a student body of less than 10,000 PVAMU still has the second-highest number of black STEM graduates in the A&M system. That includes biology and biomedical programs, with PV ranking in the top for African-American biology students, and a respected pre-medical program designed to close the national gap in minority doctors. Prairie View began with a normal school (teacher training program) in 1876, and today the Green College of Education is recognized as one of Texas’ oldest and best. PVAMU has also been recognized for its College of Business, including its highly-ranked online MBA program, and as one of the nation’s best sources for African-American engineers. For STEM excellence in an HBCU setting, Prairie View A&M is a nationally-renowned value.
Alcorn State University
The first public, land-grant university founded for African-Americans, Alcorn State University has been bringing minority students the highest quality of professional and technological education since 1871. Alcorn State has not only been a renowned public university, but a leader in equality, from the struggles of Reconstruction, to the work of the Civil Rights Movement and alumnus Medgar Evers. Today, Alcorn State is one of Mississippi’s most prominent, highest-ranked institutions, a U.S. News & World Report top 20 HBCU, and a center of research and learning for African-Americans of the Deep South.
Designated as a regional university, Alcorn State is dedicated to providing educational opportunity to Mississippi’s students, though students come from across the US, and some international locations. With its roots in the land-grant system, which emphasizes practical learning and applied sciences, Alcorn State is one of Mississippi’s best STEM and pre-professional universities. It is also the only HBCU in the state offering a comprehensive top HBCU nursing program, as well as pre-professional studies in medicine, pharmacy, law, engineering, and more. Alcorn State’s low tuition rates and strong reputation throughout the South have made it a reliable value among the nation’s best HBCUs.
A profoundly important and history-shaping institution, Spelman College was the first liberal arts college for black women in the US. Since 1881, Spelman has been a key part of African-American cultural and professional life in Atlanta and across the nation, with alumni like Alice Walker and CEO Rosalind Brewer. From its humble beginnings in a church basement, Spelman has become a watchword for excellence in HBCUs and women’s education. For its quality and influence, Spelman has been ranked the top HBCU in the nation by U.S. News & World Report, as well as earning recognition as one of the most innovative schools, and one of the best values, by publications like Money magazine, the Wall Street Journal, and Essence.
Spelman remains a primarily undergraduate, traditional liberal arts college, preparing young women for professional life, scholarship, and social impact. With a student body of just over 2100, and a low 10:1 student-faculty ratio, Spelman’s students have the mentoring and support of a small liberal arts college, and the success. A third of Spelman’s students head straight into graduate or professional programs after graduation, and Spelman is a national leader for leading black women into medical and STEM doctoral programs. Spelman’s success is also evident in one of the highest graduation rates for black women in the nation. For ambitious, creative, and promising young African-American women, Spelman has made its name as one of the best possible college investments.
Among HBCUs, Howard University is the leading private research university and a pillar of black excellence. Howard was named for its founder, Civil War General Oliver O. Howard, and from its beginning in 1867, the university was open to all people, regardless of gender or race. Today, Howard is known as “The Mecca,” a destination for the best and brightest African-American students, and its heritage of excellence makes it one of the most selective and prestigious institutions in the nation. Howard is widely ranked as a first-tier national university, and the #2 HBCU in the nation, by U.S. News & World Report.
Howard is known for its quality in disciplines ranging from the fine arts and humanities to the medical professions, and graduates more African-American doctors than any other school. Alumni include some of the most renowned black authors, actors, musicians, and artists in American history, as well as political luminaries like Thurgood Marshall and Kamala Harris. Howard University Health Sciences houses globally-recognized colleges of Medicine, Pharmacy, and Dentistry, as well as one of the top HBCU nursing programs, and is one of the nation’s most important forces in addressing medical inequalities. From one of the top HBCU law schools, to music, medicine to computer science, Howard University is a value that graduates can trust.
Hampton University sits at a center of American history – the Emancipation Oak, where the Emancipation Proclamation was read to the liberated slaves who had gathered at the Union Fortress Monroe for protection from the Confederate army. It was also where education reformer Mary Smith Peake began educating freed African-Americans. These are the roots of Hampton University, today one of the most prestigious and respected HBCUs in the nation, ranked #3 by U.S. News & World Report. Hampton’s trusted reputation has made it a valuable name on the job market, and a wide-spread body of alumni gives graduates a great advantage in finding rewarding career opportunities.
Hampton was founded as a normal school (a teacher-training program in which teachers learned first-hand through two years in front of a model classroom) and agricultural school. Those two threads have continued throughout Hampton’s history, diverging into world-class humanities and professional programs on the one hand, and top-tier STEM programs on the other. As a comprehensive, private research university, Hampton offers programs at all levels, from bachelor’s to doctorate, in fields ranging from engineering, nursing, and pharmacy, to business, education, and social science. Hampton’s balance of excellence, variety, and reputation make it a definitive value among HBCUs.
Delaware State University
Founded in 1890, Delaware State University began as Delaware’s land-grant institution for black students, focused on what was then a wide range of options – agriculture, chemistry, science, engineering, and classical studies. These early offerings in the sciences and applied sciences gave Delaware State a strong foundation for growth in STEM fields throughout the 20th and into the 21st century. Delaware State is ranked in the top 15 HBCUs by U.S. News & World Report, and is widely recognized as a top regional college for the north.
Among HBCUs, Delaware State is exceptionally diverse, with a substantial proportion of white and Latino students. With its roots in applied sciences, Delaware State attracts students to a variety of STEM and health science disciplines. In recent years, Delaware State’s stature as a research institution has grown substantially, especially in fields such as mathematics, optics, and biomedical research. Delaware State is also a rarity among HBCUs in offering an aviation program. In addition, Delaware State’s business school has long been recognized as one of the best by the Princeton Review.
Mississippi’s foremost private HBCU, Tougaloo College was founded in 1869 on the grounds of a former plantation. Tougaloo is affiliated with the United Church of Christ, and was originally intended to educate freed slaves and their children, particularly to be teachers in Mississippi’s segregated schools. Through a history of leadership in Mississippi, whether helping drive the Civil Rights movement or educating generations of doctors, lawyers, and educators, Tougaloo has earned a reputation for excellence in education and social engagement. Tougaloo is frequently ranked a best value by publishers like Washington Monthly, as well as one of the best regional institutions and top HBCUs.
From its heritage as a small liberal arts college, Tougaloo has become known for its pre-professional programs, and for the influence it has exerted throughout Mississippi. Nearly half of Mississippi’s African-American health and legal professionals are Tougaloo graduates, and more than a third of the state’s black schoolteachers. Further, among HBCUs Tougaloo is second only to Spelman for the number of graduates going on to doctorate degrees. Tougaloo is well-known for its commitment to the community, earning recognition for social mobility from Washington Monthly. Tougaloo reaches out across Mississippi and the Deep South’s African-American community, defining value for future minority professionals and leaders.
Morehouse College is one of the most prominent HBCUs in the nation, known for its academic rigor and its overarching influence throughout the 20th century (including its most illustrious alumnus, Dr Martin Luther King, Jr). Founded in 1867, Morehouse is one of the few remaining men’s colleges in the nation, and the largest, though it has fostered a longtime association with Atlanta’s all-female Spelman College. Originally intended to educate free black men to the ministry or teaching, over time Morehouse became a nexus of leadership in religion, politics, business, and culture. Morehouse is regularly ranked as one of the top 5 HBCUs in the nation, as well as a nationally-recognized liberal arts college.
Morehouse stands firm in its heritage as a traditional liberal arts college, with a small student body (just over 2000 students), a low student-faculty ratio (just 13:1), and a reputation for mentorship and professional development. Morehouse is dedicated to leadership, and its curriculum is committed to preparing young black men for graduate study and professional life. Morehouse is one of the top producers of African-American graduates entering STEM and business, with special emphasis on black history, culture, and thought. With its reputation for rigor and excellence, Morehouse focuses on intellectual and character development and has proven to be a value for generations of African-American men.
Lincoln University (PA)
The nation’s first university specifically intended for African-American students, Lincoln University dates back to 1854, when it was founded by Quaker education reformers. Originally named for a Quaker leader, the university was renamed in honor of Abraham Lincoln in 1866, and the incorporated area around the college gradually became known as Lincoln as well. Long recognized as a traditional liberal arts college, in the 21st century, Lincoln is developing as a leader in professional education and research for the modern, tech-driven economy. Lincoln is ranked one of the top 25 HBCUs in the nation by U.S. News & World Report.
Lincoln is located in Chester County, one of the first counties in Pennsylvania (founded by William Penn himself) and one of the wealthiest, but Lincoln University has long made accessibility and acceptance part of its mission. While Lincoln is predominantly African-American, it has always welcomed other races, and today more than 15% of the population is made up of non-black students. Students are drawn to the support and mentorship of a small liberal arts college (including a 12:1 student:faculty ratio) and to Lincoln’s reputation throughout Pennsylvania and the north. These advantages make Lincoln a solid value.
Winston-Salem State University
Winston-Salem State University began its mission in 1892 as the Winston-Salem Teachers College, the first teacher’s college in the state for African-American students. WSSU’s founder, Dr Simon Atkins, was a famed education reformer who had been born to freed slaves in rural North Carolina. WSSU was the first HBCU to issue bachelor’s in education degrees, and by the 1970s the small teacher’s school was a full public university. Today, Winston-Salem State is recognized as one of the nation’s top institutions for social mobility by Washington Monthly, and is ranked one of the top 50 public universities in the south by U.S. News & World Report.
Winston-Salem State is particularly known for its healthcare and nursing programs, establishing its School of Nursing in 1953 as the Triad area became a medical center. Their top HBCU nursing and health sciences program is widely ranked among the best in North Carolina and the south. In addition, Winston-Salem State is widely recognized for its online degree programs, which help to extend the university’s reach to its student body, and for its efforts at increasing diversity in fields like health, fitness, education, and social sciences. WSSU has also long been recognized for value, combining quality, affordability, and job market recognition.
North Carolina A&T State University
When the state of North Carolina planned to open an agricultural and mechanical college for African-Americans under the Morrill Land-Grant Act, the black teacher’s college in Winston-Salem campaigned for the new school, but the nearby city of Greensboro won out. So North Carolina Agricultural & Technical State University came to Greensboro rather than becoming a part of Winston-Salem State, and NC A&T had the opportunity to grow into the largest, and one of the most acclaimed, HBCUs in the nation. With its land-grant roots, NC A&T had the foundations for excellence in the STEM fields, and today A&T is ranked as the #2 public HBCU by U.S. News & World Report, combining research and teaching at a national level of excellence.
NC A&T is rightly proud of their influence and leadership, from graduating African-American political leaders, generals, scientists, and even astronaut Ronald McNair – as well as the legendary Greensboro Four, students who started the first sit-in of the Civil Rights Movement. But in the 21st century, A&T is continuing its mission at an even greater pace, with world-changing research for NASA, the NIH, the Department of Defence, and many other institutions. Ranked as an R2 research university by the Carnegie Classification, A&T stands behind only UNC and NC State University among public North Carolina schools, and ambitious plans for the future only make NC A&T State University a stronger investment.
Xavier University of Louisiana
The only private, Catholic HBCU in the nation, Xavier University of Louisiana was founded by St. Katherine Drexel, the first American-born Catholic saint, who worked in the early 20th century to bring education to underrepresented African-American and Native American communities. Beginning as a small academy in 1915, Xavier grew into a diverse, academically rigorous liberal arts college widely recognized for its quality and job market reputation. Today, Xavier University of Louisiana is ranked the #5 HBCU by U.S. News & World Report, as well as one of the top 30 regional universities in the South.
As a traditional, Catholic liberal arts college, Xavier is primarily known for the kind of intellectual challenge and superb mentorship students have always expected from a Catholic education. With one foot in its Catholic identity, and one in its African-American identity, Xavier emphasizes character development, moral and ethical responsibility, and faith alongside a deep understanding of black history and culture. Xavier is also one of the most successful HBCUs in the nation for sending students on to elite graduate programs in STEM and medicine. Top-level research and all the support of a liberal arts college make Xavier a sound higher education value.
Founded in 1869 by northern missionaries, Claflin University was the first institution in South Carolina to offer higher education to African-Americans. Nearly a century and a half later, Claflin has established itself among the leading small liberal arts college in the South, and one of the top-ranked HBCUs in the nation. Though Claflin was the home of South Carolina’s land-grant school before the founding of South Carolina State University, Claflin remains affiliated with the United Methodist Church. Today, Claflin is recognized for its academic rigor, student support, and innovative spirit, and is regularly ranked one of U.S. News & World Report’s top 10 HBCUs.
Claflin takes pride in retaining the strongest elements of the traditional liberal arts college, while directing students toward the future. That means a low student:faculty ratio of 13:1, giving students the opportunity for real relationships with their mentors. It also means that nearly all of Claflin’s faculty have the highest degree in their field, and that students get access to real-world, cutting-edge research and knowledge. This small school is on the rise, and has been selected by the Gates Foundation as a model of transformational change in higher education, making Claflin a value that will only increase.
Founded as the Fisk Free Colored School in 1866, Fisk University is one of the oldest and most iconic historically black universities in the nation. Its founder, General Clinton Fisk, was a proponent of free education who established schools throughout the south for poor and rural white and black students. Fisk’s location in Tennessee’s largest city made it a haven for generations of African-American students, and Fisk has made major impacts on civil rights, black culture, and education – for instance, through alumni like W.E.B. DuBois and John Lewis. Today, Fisk is ranked in the top 10 HBCUs and a top-tier liberal arts college by U.S. News & World Report.
Fisk University is especially known for its impact on black leadership, graduating business leaders, political leaders, and STEM researchers. Fisk was, for example, the first HBCU with a Phi Beta Kappa charter. In addition to its highly ranked MBA programs, R&D 100 awards, and scientific research, Fisk is known for its cultural impact. The Fisk Jubilee Singers, founded in 1871, set a crucial precedent for African-American gospel choirs and popularized Negro spirituals across the world. In addition, Fisk has long been recognized as a best value by publications like Washington Monthly and the Princeton Review, a reflection of its quality and return on investment.
North Carolina Central University
North Carolina Central University, part of the renowned University of North Carolina system was founded in 1909 in Durham, North Carolina’s legendary Hayti District, once one of the nation’s most prominent, self-sufficient black communities. Originally a private teachers college, in the 1920s NCCU became the first public liberal arts college for African-American students. With state support, Central gradually grew into one of the state’s premier regional universities, and is consistently ranked not only one of the top HBCU’s, but one of the top regional universities in the South by U.S. News & World Report.
NCCU continues its leadership role in the world of HBCU’s, with innovative programs, community outreach, and continual development. Central was the first college in North Carolina to develop a Jazz Studies program, attracting some of the most acclaimed jazz luminaries as artists-in-residence. Other innovative programs include library and information science, the only such program at an HBCU, and the Institute for Homeland Security and Workforce Development. NCCU became the first UNC System university to mandate community service for all students, and its dedication to the educational and social needs of the community – in Durham and at large – makes NC Central University a model value college.
Bowie State University
Founded in 1865, Bowie State University was Maryland’s first college for African-Americans, established to prepare black teachers for Maryland’s school system. While teacher education remained central to Bowie’s mission, the college grew rapidly alongside Prince George’s County – a Washington, DC suburb recognized as one of the nation’s largest majority-African-American areas. From a teacher’s college, to a liberal arts college, to a full state university, Bowie State has been central to higher education in the region for more than 150 years, and is ranked a top 25 HBCU by U.S. News & World Report.
Bowie State is still one of Maryland’s top producers of professional schoolteachers, but the university has become well known in recent years for its research and STEM programs. The university has been cited by Diversity magazine for its efforts in graduating African-American biology and computer science majors, and its NSA and Homeland Security-approved cybersecurity program is recognized as a model in the field. Publications like the Economist and Money magazine have named Bowie State a best value for years.
Founded by education reformer and civil rights pioneer Booker T. Washington, Tuskegee University is one of the most recognizable names in American higher education. In part, that is because of its illustrious past, with faculty like George Washington Carver and alumni like the Tuskegee Airmen. But Tuskegee is also known today for its innovative programs and reputation for research. Tuskegee is Alabama’s top-ranked regional college, a top 30 regional college for the South, and one of the top 10 HBCUs in the nation, according to U.S. News & World Report.
Though it may have begun as a teachers college, Tuskegee is known today primarily for its scientific research, healthcare, and professional programs. As the only HBCU with a comprehensive veterinary school, Tuskegee is a leader in animal health, and the Tuskegee School of Nursing was the first academic nursing program in Alabama. Tuskegee is also home of the National Center for Bioethics in Research and Health Care, established under President Bill Clinton. With a prestigious heritage and a bold future, Tuskegee remains one of the best values in higher education.
A private college founded by the Seventh-Day Adventist Church, Oakwood University began as an industrial school in 1896, training African-American students for work more complex than manual labor. Over time, Oakwood grew into a junior college, and eventually into a university, building on a foundation of inclusiveness, service, and faith. Oakwood’s reputation has grown regionally and nationally in the 21st century, as it has developed well-ranked professional programs. Today, Oakwood is ranked highly among regional colleges in the South (top 50) and top 30 HBCUs in the nation by U.S. News & World Report.
Oakwood is a rarity among HBCUs as a Seventh-Day Adventist institution, and Christian faith is deeply ingrained in Oakwood’s curriculum and student life. Along with religion, Oakwood is dedicated to practical degree programs that prepare students for professional careers and for service in their communities and churches. That includes programs in nursing and health sciences, business, education, and the sciences. Oakwood is also recognized nationally for the number of graduates who go on to medical school. With a reputation for quality and outreach, Oakwood has earned its status as a best value.
University of Maryland Eastern Shore
The University of Maryland Eastern Shore had its beginning in a private Methodist college in 1886. But when the federal government decided in 1890 that segregated states must establish land-grant universities for African-American students, the school then known as Morgan College began the transition to a public research university. Today, UMES is classified by the Carnegie Foundation as a doctoral-level research institution, with many comprehensive programs in STEM fields and a respected undergraduate program. UMES is ranked by U.S. News & World Report as the #20 HBCU in the nation, and has made the leap from regional to national status.
While UM Eastern Shore is still a historically black college, today nearly a quarter of the student body comes from other backgrounds. Along with its growing diversity, Eastern Shore has become well known for its professional programs, especially in areas such as criminal justice and human ecology. UMES keeps the size and support of a small liberal arts college, with a student body of around 3000, and a low student:faculty ratio of just 14:1, giving students access to faculty for research and mentorship. With a growing reputation and public-university tuition rates, the University of Maryland Eastern Shore is proving a higher education investment to watch.
Morgan State University
Maryland’s designated public urban research university, Morgan State University dates back to a small Bible institute founded in 1867 to train ministers for the Methodist Episcopal Church (today’s United Methodist Church). A major gift from philanthropist Andrew Carnegie in 1915 helped the seminary grow into a comprehensive teacher’s college. Morgan College became the second full public university in Maryland when the state bought the campus to expand educational opportunity for African-Americans. Today, Morgan State is a crucial part of public higher education in Maryland, and is ranked one of the top 20 national HBCUs by U.S. News & World Report.
As an urban research university, Morgan State’s programs are focused on the needs of modern professional life, especially education, a heritage of the school’s roots as a teachers college. Morgan State’s schools of engineering, business, and architecture and planning are part of the university’s emphasis on urban growth and development, largely localized in the Baltimore metropolitan region. The university continues its mission to African-Americans through outreach to Baltimore’s majority-black public schools, but its diverse student body is 20% non-African-American. As Maryland’s largest HBCU, Morgan State awards more degrees to black students than any other school in the state.
Jackson State University
One of the nation’s largest HBCUs, with a student body of nearly 10,000, Jackson State University is one of Mississippi’s preeminent public universities. Founded in 1877, JSU was originally a seminary for the American Baptist Church in Natchez, MS, but as the school and its mission grew, it moved to the capital city of Jackson. After being taken over by the state in 1940, Jackson State grew into a comprehensive, public research university, recognized by the Carnegie Classification as an institution with high research activity. Jackson State is ranked #15 in national HBCUs by U.S. News & World Report.
As a public research university in the state capital, Jackson State University is officially recognized as Mississippi’s urban university, and its primary mission is providing professional education to Jackson and the metropolitan area around the city. To that mission, JSU is focused on the needs of urban life; for instance, Jackson State is the first public university in Mississippi with a School of Public Health. Other prominent programs include business, engineering, and meteorology. With a growing student body and national recognition, Jackson State is on its way to being one of the leading HBCUs, and represents a clear value.
Bethune-Cookman University began as a small private school for African-American girls founded by Mary McLeod Bethune in 1904. In time, that school, which was focused on literacy and job training, grew into a high school and teacher training school, before merging with the United Methodist Church’s Cookman Institute to become a junior college. Today, Bethune-Cookman is a coed university known for its excellence in undergraduate education, and a growing national reputation. Bethune-Cookman is currently ranked in the top 25 national HBCUs, and is steadily building is profile as a national liberal arts university.
Bethune-Cookman is primarily known as a small liberal arts university, with a student body of just over 4000; graduate studies make up only a little over 100 students, but their reputation is growing. Graduate programs include criminal justice and leadership, with several other degrees. With a student:faculty of 15:1, B-CU counts student support and mentorship as a priority; nearly half of the student population is made up of first-generation students, and just over three-quarters are African-American. With its national profile on the rise, Bethune-Cookman University is becoming one of Florida’s best values.
Dillard University’s predecessors date back to 1868, when Straight University was founded by the Congregational Church, and the Union Normal School was founded by the Methodist Episcopal Church. These two African-American schools, each facing economic hardships, combined in 1930 to form Dillard University, named for education reformer James Dillard. As the foremost private HBCU in New Orleans, Dillard came to have a significant place in the culture and learning of the city, and made its name throughout Louisiana and the Deep South. Today, Dillard is ranked the #11 HBCU in the nation by U.S. News & World Report.
Dillard University is primarily recognized as an undergraduate educator, and is known for sending graduates to some of the nation’s most prestigious graduate and professional schools. In addition to traditional academic programs, Dillard is known for the Institute of Jazz Culture, and is the only university in the nation with an endowed professorship for African-American culinary culture. Largely devastated by flood and fire after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Dillard recovered from the disaster in a big way, rebuilding campus and growing even more. In the past decade, Dillard has developed its reputation for undergraduate excellence, and made outreach more important than ever, earning recognition as a top university for social mobility.
Virginia State University
Founded in 1881, Virginia State University was the first college for African-Americans conceived and formed by a state as a public institution. Originally a normal school for training teachers to serve in Virginia’s segregated public schools, VSU became Virginia’s African-American land-grant research university in 1920, taking the title from the private Hampton University (#6 above). That heritage has made Virginia State a leader in STEM and professional programs, as well as a trusted public university. Ranked by U.S. News & World Report in the top tier of Southern regional universities, VSU is also tied for #31 among HBCUs.
As a comprehensive, regional public university, Virginia State’s primary mission is bringing educational opportunity to the people of Virginia, both African-American and not. With its land-grant status, VSU is also a leading research university, especially in areas like agriculture, biology, and engineering. Virginia State is also well known for its outreach, including programs encouraging low-income public school students to take up STEM careers. From research on climate change to programs improving school principal training, VSU is committed to making a better world through practical education, and represents the best kind of college value.
Clark Atlanta University
Clark Atlanta University formed in 1988 from the merger of two older historically black colleges: Atlanta University (1865), the nation’s first African-American graduate school, and Clark College (1869), a small, Methodist liberal arts college. The combination made Clark Atlanta the most complete HBCU in Georgia, with degree programs spanning bachelor’s to doctorate. It is also one of only a handful of Carnegie Foundation-classified, private, historically black research universities. Ranked as one of the top 20 HBCUs in the nation by U.S. News & World Report, Clark Atlanta is a key part of higher education in Georgia and across the South.
As one of the nation’s top historically black research universities, Clark Atlanta is making developments, and attracting students, in some of the most cutting-edge fields in STEM. That includes the Center for Functional Nanoscale Measures, driven by supercomputing technology, and the Center for Cancer Research and Therapeutic Development. Clark Atlanta’s School of Business is also rated one of the best business schools of any national HBCU, with a National Black MBA Association award-winning MBA program. Clark Atlanta’s star keeps rising, and its value along with its reputation.
Johnson C. Smith University
Founded in 1867, Johnson C. Smith University began as the Biddle Memorial Institute, a school for training freed slaves to become Presbyterian ministers and schoolteachers. Its location in the Biddleville neighborhood – an historic African-American neighborhood that was once a self-contained community – put it at the center of the Civil Rights Movement in Charlotte. Supported by the Duke Endowment (the same massive legacy that funded Duke University), JCSU grew into liberal arts college deeply engaged in the civic and cultural life of Charlotte, and of the African-American community. Today, JCSU is ranked in the top 20 HBCUs nationally by U.S. News & World Report.
In recent years, JCSU has made a concerted effort to build on its status as Charlotte’s independent urban university. Much of the university’s energy has been used in building, developing STEM programs, and growing an ever more-diverse student body through outreach nationally and internationally. While its programs focus on entrepreneurship, innovation, and leadership, JCSU retains the small classes, low student:faculty ratio, and student support associated of its small liberal arts college roots. With its national recognition increasing, Johnson C. Smith University is becoming an investment to watch.
One of only two historically black women’s colleges (along with Spelman College, #4 above), Bennett College was founded as a normal school in 1873, educating freed black people to work as schoolteachers. While it was originally coed, Bennett became all-female in 1926 to address the need for higher education for black women, which was not being met at the time. Intended as an African-American equivalent to the Seven Sisters, Bennett became a beacon of progressivism; Dr. Martin Luther King famously spoke at Bennett when he was banned from the city of Greensboro. Today, Bennett is ranked one of the top 30 HBCUs in the nation by U.S. News & World Report.
Bennett College has maintained its mission of providing the very best possible undergraduate education for black women. With a low, 11:1 student:faculty ratio, Bennett prioritizes student support and mentorship at all levels, including the Early Middle College, a high school for at-risk young women. Bennett offers two dozen majors, including both traditional academic programs, and professional studies like business, education, and social work. Students also have access to a dual degree with partner NC A&T State University (#12 above). For a woman-centered, African-American undergraduate education, Bennett College provides the support and opportunity that makes a best value.
Tennessee State University
Tennessee’s only public HBCU, Tennessee State University was founded in 1912 as the state’s land-grant research university for African-Americans. Over time, the Agricultural & Industrial Normal School – focused on practical education and teacher training – grew into a significant, comprehensive public university, merging with the University of Tennessee at Nashville in 1979. Today, Tennessee State is the only public university in Tennessee’s biggest city, the capital Nashville, and is crucial to professional education and research for the state. Recognized as Tennessee’s leading HBCU, TSU is a comprehensive urban university named by Washington Monthly for its impact on social mobility.
Tennessee State’s roots in practical, professional education remain strong, with more than 75-degree programs ranging from bachelor’s to doctorate. A comprehensive research institution, TSU is known for its STEM programs, particularly agriculture; the university graduates more African-American agriculture and agriculture-related majors than any other HBCU. TSU’s location in Nashville – the center of government and culture for Tennessee – makes it a leader in areas like public service, urban affairs, and business. With its reputation throughout Tennessee, and connections to every sector on Nashville, Tennessee State offers students a strong position in the job market.
Alabama A&M University
The location of Alabama A&M University – Normal, AL, a suburb of Huntsville – gives a clue to the university’s origin as a normal school in 1875. Originally intended to prepare black teachers for Alabama’s schools, Alabama A&M became the state’s land-grant agriculture and mechanical science school for African-Americans in 1891. That foundation made Alabama A&M an important force for scientific and professional education for Alabama’s black community, and the college grew into a substantial, comprehensive research and academic institution. U.S. News & World Report ranks Alabama A&M in the top 25 HBCUs nationwide.
For nearly a century and a half, Alabama A&M has maintained the mission of providing opportunity to African-American young people, working adults, and professionals. With its land-grant heritage, AAMU is central to STEM education for black students in Alabama, with recognition from Diverse Issues in Higher Education for graduating African-Americans in engineering, biology, agriculture, and more. Alabama A&M also retains its tradition of teacher education, ranking in the top 10 for the number of black teachers graduated. With public university tuition rates and a history of excellence, Alabama A&M University is a proven value for more than 40,000 alumni.
Fayetteville State University
Part of the University of North Carolina System, Fayetteville State University is North Carolina’s second-oldest public university, dating back to a school founded in 1865 for the children of emancipated slaves. First called the Howard School (for the Freedman’s Bureau head), the school was selected by North Carolina to house the State Colored Normal School in 1877, the first public training school for black teachers. With the growth of Fayetteville – an important military town, and one of North Carolina’s largest cities – Fayetteville State grew as well, and today is recognized as a top 25 HBCU by U.S. News & World Report.
With its roots firmly in the city of Fayetteville, Fayetteville State takes its role as a regional urban university with pride. Fayetteville State is especially known for its outreach; in recent years, much of the growth in FSU’s student body has been in its nationally-recognized online programs, which have been named some of the most affordable nationwide. Some of FSU’s most popular online degrees include criminal justice, accounting, and a top HBCU nursing program. Community service and engagement is also central to FSU’s curriculum and student life, making Fayetteville State a financial value, and a leader in educational diversity.
Savannah State University
Georgia’s oldest public HBCU, Savannah State University dates back to the Second Morrill Land Grant Act of 1890, which required segregated states to establish land-grant universities for African-American students. Though it started at the University of Georgia in Athens, the Georgia State Industrial College moved to Savannah a year later, where a large black population was in need of public education opportunity. Today, SSU is deeply engaged in Savannah life, from education and business to STEM, and is recognized as a leader and innovator in African-American education.
With its beginnings as a land-grant institution, Savannah State is immersed in STEM; its location on the Georgia coast, for instance, has made SSU the most prominent HBCU in marine sciences. SSU also pioneered degree programs in criminal justice, homeland security, and forensic science for the state of Georgia, and is a significant participant in research on long-term space travel. Along with its STEM excellence, Savannah State is an important institution for teacher education in Georgia. For students in Georgia and beyond, Savannah State is a value, with reasonable tuition, cutting-edge programs, and a growing reputation that promises a long-term return on investment.
Philander Smith College
Founded in 1877 as Walden Seminary, Philander Smith College was the first HBCU west of the Mississippi River, intended to bring education to the freedmen who sought a new life settling what was still mostly frontier. Named for Philander Smith, whose widow Adeline contributed to building the campus, Philander Smith College was established as a liberal arts college in 1883, beginning its nearly century and a half history of excellent college education. Today, Philander Smith College is a small liberal arts college with fewer than 1000 students, but boundless optimism, and its reputation is rising with the Philander Forward initiative.
Founded by, and still affiliated with, the United Methodist Church, Philander Smith College is dedicated to public service, community engagement, and social justice activism. That commitment extends from its role in Arkansas’ Civil Rights Movement, to the contemporary work of the Social Justice Institute. Along with transforming the world, PSC is committed to transforming the workforce, health, and education. From business to social work, PSC’s programs are designed for quality and innovation, and Philander Smith College aims to be a name heard much more nationwide in the coming years.
Norfolk State University
Norfolk State University has been providing educational opportunity to coastal Virginia since 1935. By the 1930s, there was sufficient interest in higher education for African-Americans that Virginia Union University opened an extension campus in Norfolk, VA. The school struggled, however, first becoming independent, then joining with Virginia State University, and finally becoming an independent state university once again in 1969. Today, Norfolk State is ranked among the top 30 HBCUs in the nation by U.S. News & World Report, and has a respected reputation throughout Virginia and the northeast.
Norfolk State, with its heritage as a regional university, and an HBCU, puts outreach and teaching at the center of its curriculum. With a little over 5000 students, more than 80% of whom are African-American, Norfolk State is an important educator for Virginia’s black community. The university’s history as a polytechnic institute continues to shape its professional and technical programs, while a growing slate of fully online degrees increases NSU’s reach and potential. A solid reputation and an eye to the future makes Norfolk State a best value HBCU.
Southern University and A&M College
Louisiana’s largest HBCU, and the flagship of the Southern University System – a system of five independent institutions – Southern University and A&M College is a prominent public HBCU in Baton Rouge, LA. Southern was founded by the state in 1880 at the urging of black leaders to provide a public option for African-American college students. Southern College became Southern University when Louisiana chose it for the state’s African-American land-grant research university in 1890. With the demand for education, Southern grew steadily through the 20th century, establishing a system of colleges and earning a reputation as one of the top HBCUs in the Deep South.
Southern University is one of the most important institutions for African-American education in the Deep South region. It is the only HBCU in Louisiana with an engineering school, and one of only two public law schools in the state; Southern began its top HBCU law program when the segregated Louisiana State refused to admit black students. Further, Southern is one of the top ten universities in the nation for graduating African-American nurses, and one of the top for educating black men who later go on to complete a doctorate. Much of Louisiana’s black leadership owes their opportunity to Southern, a value in a multitude of ways.
Elizabeth City State University
Elizabeth City State University dates back to a normal school established in 1891 to provide education for black schoolteachers. Over the next decades, the need for education for African-Americans in eastern North Carolina – which was growing greatly at that time into a shipping and commercial hub – helped the two-year normal school grow into a state college. The premier HBCU in North Carolina’s the coastal region, Elizabeth City State has earned a reputation for quality, particularly in practical, career-centered fields, and is ranked a top HBCU by U.S. News & World Report, and the #2 public regional college for the South.
Elizabeth City State is committed to multiculturalism and opportunity; while ECSU remains a proud HBCU, more than a quarter of the student body comes from other backgrounds. With its regional focus, Elizabeth City State is primarily concerned with preparing new generations of professionals, and turning current professionals into leaders. Some of ECSU’s strengths include health, technology, and aviation, and the university has frequently been named one of the best in the nation for veterans. Elizabeth City State is also highly ranked by Washington Monthly for its impact on social mobility, underscoring the university’s value.
Florida Memorial University
Florida Memorial University is an historic institution, dating back to 1879 and a Baptist seminary in Live Oak, FL. The racial terrorism rampant in the late 19th and early 20th century drove Florida Memorial to numerous locations, but the passion and commitment of its students and faculty – including J. Rosamond Johnson, composer of “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing” – kept the college alive. FMU eventually settled in Miami, and around it, the city of Miami Gardens grew – Florida’s largest, most prominent majority-black city. Ranked one of the top 25 regional colleges in the South, Florida Memorial is a model HBCU.
As a small, regional, private university, Florida Memorial retains its commitment to traditional liberal arts education, preparing students for further schooling and work with a foundation in learning and service. FMU’s small student body of around 1800 students includes a diverse mix of African-American, Latino, and white students. Florida Memorial is particularly known for its respected business school and MBA program, and for a teacher education program ranked in the top ten nationally for graduating black teachers. With its faith in community engagement, Florida Memorial has developed into one of the best values for African-American students in Florida.
Albany State University
Albany State University was founded in 1903 as a bible school by Joseph Winthrop Holley, a son of former slaves who was educated in the north and returned south to create opportunity for others. Originally focused on teacher training and agriculture, the school was given to the state in 1917 to create a public Normal and Agricultural College for African-American students. Albany was the center of the Albany Movement in the 1960s, a key Civil Rights Movement initiative. In recent years, Albany State has grown into Georgia’s largest HBCU, and is ranked by U.S. News & World Report as a top 30 HBCU, and a top 50 public regional college.
Albany State’s mission puts it at the center of economic development, community growth, and educational opportunity for southwestern Georgia. Building on its heritage and its current status as a regional college, Albany State focuses on the needs of the community, from public service to educational outreach, including extension and online programs. Students gain a strong foundation in the liberal arts, while professional programs like nursing, accounting, and forensic science draw students and earn Albany State national attention. With affordability and quality, Albany State is one of Georgia’s best values.
Coppin State University
Named for African-American education pioneer Fanny Jackson Coppin – who had been born a slave, began teaching freedmen as a student at Oberlin College, and founded Cheyney State University – Coppin State University was founded as a normal school in 1900. In just 40 years Coppin grew from a humble 1-year program in Baltimore’s black high school to a teachers college. Today, Coppin State is a residential, urban liberal arts college in Maryland’s capital, Baltimore, and is ranked the #50 HBCU in the nation by U.S. News & World Report.
Coppin State has a mission that places it at the center of urban life in Baltimore, fulfilling its longtime commitment to excellence and uplift. With its roots in a teachers college, Coppin State is one of Maryland’s leading institutions for teacher education. In addition, Coppin State leads in health and social work, with a top HBCU nursing program and through initiatives like the Community Nursing Center. Other public outreach includes managing the Rosemont Elementary School; in CSU’s care, the once-failing elementary school was brought to standard in just five years. A deep commitment to improvement and accessibility makes Coppin State an unmistakable value.
Founded in 1856, Wilberforce University proudly carries the distinction of being the first college owned and operated by an African-American leadership. While the predominantly white Methodist Episcopal Church and the African Methodist Episcopal Church founded the college together, the AME Church saved the college from financial collapse by buying out its Civil War-related debt. With a flood of free black people settling in Ohio to escape Jim Crow and racial terror, Wilberforce became one of the most prominent black colleges in the nation, attracting some of the most accomplished students and faculty in every era.
Wilberforce University remains one of the nation’s leading HBCUs, dedicated to African-American self-determination and self-sufficiency. Primarily recognized as a traditional liberal arts college, Wilberforce offers 20-degree programs in areas ranging from the humanities and the social sciences to business and computer science. Wilberforce is also recognized for its outreach to working adults, including the Adult and Continuing Education program. Still affiliated with the AME Church, Wilberforce emphasizes ethics, responsibility, and service, and gives its students an education that defines value.
University of the District of Columbia
The only public university in Washington, DC, the University of the District of Columbia dates back to the establishment of the Miner Normal School, a teacher training school for African-American teachers. Merging with the all-white Wilson Teachers College in 1955, the school became the DC Teachers College. The college became the University of the District of Columbia when the capital consolidated the teacher’s college, Federal City College, Washington Technical Institute in the 1970s. After finally incorporating the DC School of Law, UDC became the only public university left in the nation’s capital. Today, UDC is ranked one of the top 10 HBCUs by the Wall Street Journal.
The University of the District of Columbia takes pride in its HBCU heritage, although its many changes over the years have made it a more diverse institution, with more than a third of the student body non-African-American. As it has accumulated into a comprehensive university, UDC has focused on the needs of Washington, DC, building unique programs suited to the needs of the nation’s capital. These include the School of Agriculture, Urban Sustainability, and Environmental Sciences; the School of Business and Public Administration; and the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. With outreach to DC’s high schools, working adults, and professionals, UDC meets and anticipates needs.
Virginia Union University
Virginia Union University gets its name from its history – four different institutions came together to finally build VUU in its modern form. The oldest of these was the Richmond Theological Institute for Freedman, founded by the American Baptist Home Mission Society right after the end of the Civil War in 1865. As Virginia Union grew through the incorporation of other historically black institutions, the university developed a reputation for innovation and outreach; its Norfolk extension campus even became an independent university on its own, Norfolk State University. Through it all, VUU retained its commitment to the African-American community.
Today, Virginia Union is recognized for its legacy of activism and leadership. With its location in Richmond, Virginia’s capital city, Virginia Union makes the needs of urban and modern life central to its mission. This dedication includes research programs like the Center for the Study of the Urban Child, and the Center for Small Business Development, initiatives designed to make an impact on life in Richmond’s African-American communities. The Proctor School of Theology has also been highly influential in black Christian churches. From business to religion, Virginia Union University is a multifaceted and powerful HBCU.
Bluefield State College
Bluefield State College is an unusual HBCU, recognized as historically black due to its heritage, but an interesting study in demographic changes. Bluefield State was founded in 1895 as the Bluefield Colored Institute, a high school for African-American students preparing to go to college. Though Bluefield State became a teachers college, and participated in the civil rights struggles of the Harlem Renaissance, through the late 20th century Bluefield State shifted from a traditional, residential liberal arts college to a career-focused commuter college. Bluefield State is ranked in the top 50 HBCUs nationally by U.S. News & World Report.
Today, Bluefield State reflects the demographics of West Virginia’s Appalachian region; the university’s student body is 80% white. With the mission of a regional public university, Bluefield State has made adult education its priority; a large number of nontraditional-aged students has raised the average age of Bluefield State’s students to 27. To meet the needs of West Virginians, many of whom are returning to school for credentialing and career change, Bluefield State focuses on career and professional programs. The Cole School of Business, in particular, is crucial, as West Virginia’s only accredited business school. Though Bluefield State looks very different from its history, its dedication to opportunity makes it a classic value.
University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff
The University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff began as the Branch Normal College, a teacher training school for African-American teachers founded in 1873. While its original mission was preparing teachers for Arkansas’ segregated schools, the Second Morrill Land Grant Act prompted the state to make Pine Bluff into Arkansas’ all-black agriculture and mechanics college. This complex history has helped make UA Pine Bluff one of the state’s most valuable colleges, ranked in the top 50 regional universities in the South by U.S. News & World Report.
UA Pine Bluff has been committed to the needs of Arkansas’ African-American population since its very beginnings, and that commitment continues today in a student-centered, holistic approach to education. Building on both a liberal arts foundation, and the most current academic expertise, UAPB brings STEM, professional studies, and research together. Standout programs include the only undergraduate and graduate aquaculture program, as well as an engineering dual degree program with the University of Arkansas flagship. Pine Bluff’s excellent reputation makes it a leading value for Arkansas and the Deep South.
Central State University
Central State University was founded in 1887 by the state of Ohio as a two-year school focused on teacher education and industrial career training. Originally housed at Wilberforce University (#40 above), an AME Church-affiliated private HBCU, Central State remained a department at Wilberforce until 1947, when the post-WWII economic boom made an independent, public HBCU more in demand. Central State has made strides in the 21st century with a diversity effort recruiting Hispanic and Latino students in addition to its traditional African-American student body. Today, Central State is ranked a top-tier regional university for the Midwest, and a top 50 HBCU, by U.S. News & World Report.
Central State has the mission of a regional public university, dedicated to providing opportunity to Ohio’s people regardless of background. With that mission in mind, Central State focuses on the most market-ready, practical career and pre-professional educational opportunities, such as an award-winning Pre-Law program. Central has also been named an Ohio Centers of Excellence in the areas of Emerging Technology and in Cultural and Societal Transformation, distinctions that highlight the university’s focus on the future. Central State’s commitment to the best for Ohio’s workers and professionals makes it one of the best values in Ohio.
Grambling State University
Grambling State University came about from a grassroots effort by African-American farmers in rural Louisiana who determined, in the late 19th century, that education was their future. The North Louisiana Colored Agriculture Relief Organization was formed to address the need, and in 1901 Grambling State’s precursor, an agriculture and industrial school for African-Americans, was founded. In time, the school added teacher training and then 4-year programs, targeting the educational needs of rural residents in what was called The Louisiana Plan. Today, Grambling State is a public HBCU ranked among the top 50 HBCUs in the nation by U.S. News & World Report.
With its roots in agriculture and industrial education, Grambling State is a practical place, focused on the career goals and professional development of students. With more than 60 degree programs, Grambling has a wide variety of market-ready paths for undergraduates and graduate students, including accounting, criminal justice, and nursing. The university also has a comprehensive teacher education program, owing to its early normal school, including a doctorate in Developmental Education. With reasonable tuition rates and a strong reputation throughout Louisiana, Grambling State provides opportunity and value for nearly 5000 students, and many more to come.
Lincoln University (MO)
Lincoln University, in Jefferson City, MO, was founded in 1866 by members of the 62nd United States Colored Infantry, a group of African-American Civil War veterans who wanted to bring education to the freed slaves of their native Missouri. Originally a manual labor school, in which students worked in exchange for their education, the state began supporting the school to provide teacher education. In 1890 Missouri chose the Lincoln Institute for its African-American land-grant university, setting Lincoln University on the course to its modern incarnation as a public, career-centered university. Lincoln is ranked a top 50 HBCU by U.S. News & World Report.
Today, Lincoln University’s curriculum is dedicated to combining professional and career preparation with theoretical and applied knowledge. While Lincoln remains an HBCU, the student body today is a little more than half African-American, and a diversity of options is designed to provide for a diverse student body. More than 75-degree programs are available, including professional studies in business, education, and nursing, some of Lincoln’s strongest divisions. With the affordability of a public university, and eyes on the future of work, Lincoln University is one of the best values in Missouri.
Mississippi Valley State University
Founded in 1950 by the Mississippi legislature, Mississippi Valley State University was originally intended to provide teacher training for Mississippi’s segregated schools, and for vocational training for African-Americans. While the legislature hoped another black school would stave off integration, Mississippi Valley State transcended its origins through activism and academic excellence. Today, MVSU is master’s level university dedicated to service learning, teaching, and research, with recognition from U.S. News & World Report as a top 50 HBCU.
As an HBCU and a regional public university, Mississippi Valley State’s mission revolves around the needs of Mississippi’s African-American community, both in educational and in cultural and social realms. MVSU provides comprehensive undergraduate and graduate programs in education, professional studies, and academic fields, as well as outreach to working adults. Nontraditional students have numerous options as well, both online and on-campus, all designed to improve the quality of life in Mississippi and throughout the Deep South. Mississippi Valley State is a best value, and a force for good.
West Virginia State University
The smallest land-grant research university in the nation, West Virginia State University makes the most of its heritage and size. Founded in 1891, WVSU began as West Virginia’s African-American land-grant institution under the Second Morrill Land Grant Act, which required segregated states to provide a public university for black students. Booker T. Washington was an early advisor, and the first West Virginia Colored Institute (for which the town is named) originally focused on vocational and teacher training. Today, West Virginia State remains committed to the professional and academic needs of West Virginia’s people.
Like West Virginia’s Bluefield State College (#43 above), WVSU is a rare example of an HBCU that is predominantly white – more than 40% of the student body. Due to demographic shifts and the slow decline of the coal industry, West Virginia State has transitioned to a primarily adult, commuter college. With a small student body of just under 3000, WVSU provides access to faculty and research more closely than other land-grant universities are able to do. A growing slate of online degree programs, including criminal justice, accounting, and educational leadership, helps WVSU increase outreach to the Appalachians, and a reputation as a best value helps ensure that students will make the most of their college investment.
Alabama State University
Founded as the Lincoln Normal School in Marion, AL, Alabama State University began in 1867 to provide teacher training to Alabama’s emancipated slaves, with just $500 donated by nine former slaves – the immortal Marion 9. When the legislature voted to open a public teachers college, the Lincoln Normal School was chosen as the site, making ASU Alabama’s first public HBCU. Moving to Alabama’s capital, Montgomery, ASU grew into a full 4-year university, dedicated to academic and professional excellence and to providing entry for African-Americans into Alabama’s political and professional heart. Today, Alabama State is ranked a top 40 HBCU by U.S. News & World Report.
With a century and a half of history and culture, ASU is one of Alabama’s foremost institutions, from supplying leaders and workers to Montgomery’s Civil Rights Movement, to educating political, business, and culture leaders today. Alabama State offers nearly 50-degree programs, including one of Alabama’s most influential and trusted teacher education programs. ASU has also made strides in other areas crucial to urban life in a state capital, including health sciences, business, and STEM. ASU also offers a dual degree engineering program with partner, the University of Alabama. With top-notch professional education and affordable tuition, Alabama State University shows the kind of value a public HBCU can provide.