Largest HBCU in the Nation: Top 10 Black Colleges by Enrollment

The Class of 2017 has packed the Library Bowl amphitheater on the campus of North Carolina Central University (7th Largest HBCU).
Photo courtesy of North Carolina Central University.

When choosing a college, several important factors come into play. While large enrollment numbers don’t guarantee that a particular school is right for every student, they can be a great clue in finding each students’ ideal college. Here, we’ll take a look at the largest HBCU by enrollment.

Largest HBCU Rankings:

10. Norfolk State University (NSU)

Rounding out the list with 7,100 students, this Virginia university’s mid-size campus is urban and offers student housing. Norfolk State students can choose between an Associates, Bachelors, Masters or Doctoral degree at the four-year, public institution.

9. Morgan State University (MSU)

Located in Baltimore, Maryland on a bustling city campus, Morgan State is the 9th largest HBCU and home to over 7,900 students. Student housing is available at the four-year public university, as are Bachelors, Post-Baccalaureate, Masters and Doctoral degrees.

8. Prairie View A&M University (PVAMU)

The most rural HBCU on our list, this public, four-year Texas campus is the 8th largest HBCU and home to over 8,300 students pursuing Bachelors, Masters and Doctoral degrees.

7. North Carolina Central University (NCCU)

Located in Durham, this public, four-year college offers its 8,600 students a range of Bachelors, Post-Baccalaureate, Masters and Doctoral degrees and certificates as well as student housing.

6. Tennessee State University (TSU)

Located on a large urban campus in the musical hub of Nashville, this four-year public college is the 6th largest HBCU and home to over 8,700 students. The university offers housing as students pursue Associates, Bachelors, Post-Baccalaureate, Masters, Post-Masters and Doctoral degrees and certificates.

5. Jackson State University (JSU)

With an enrollment of just under 9,000 students, this four-year, public Mississippi college features an urban campus in the city of Jackson. Programs available include Bachelors, Masters and Doctoral degrees and certificates.

4. Texas Southern University (TSU)

On the Houston campus of this large HBCU, over 9,500 students are enrolled in Bachelors, Masters and Doctoral degrees. TSU is a public, four-year college offering on-campus housing and a city environment.

3. Howard University (HU)

Located in our nation’s capital of Washington, D.C., Howard University is the 3rd largest HBCU and boasts an enrollment of over 10,000 students. Howard University is a four-year, private, not-for-profit college, offering unique educational experiences for students enrolled in a variety of Bachelors, Post-Baccalaureate, Masters and Doctoral certificates and degrees.

2. North Carolina A&T State University (NCAT)

Located in Greensboro on a large, public, city campus, North Carolina A&T offers a range of Bachelors, Post-Baccalaureate, Masters and Doctoral degrees and certificates. The most recent data shows over 10,000 students enrolled.

1. Florida A&M University (FAMU)

Located in Tallahassee, this four-year, public college is the largest HBCU – over 12,000 students – based on the most recent available data. The mid-size city campus offers on-campus housing and has a graduation rate of 40%. Available through Florida A&M University are Associates, Bachelors, Graduate, Masters, Post-Masters and Doctoral degrees and certificates.

What Largest HBCU Rankings Mean for You

A large college isn’t right for everybody. However, if you crave the busy, exciting experience of a large campus filled with like-minded students, one of the top 10 HBCUs would make an excellent choice. Remember to also base your decision on personal factors such as your chosen major and the type of atmosphere – urban, town or remote – which will make you feel at home.

Source: National Center for Education Statistics. Data as of 12/2013

48 thoughts on “Largest HBCU in the Nation: Top 10 Black Colleges by Enrollment”

  1. Sad to say, that FAMU grad rate of 40% is probably among the higher rates for most HBCUs. The HBCU graduation rate nationwide is only 37%. I know ours (NSU) is somewhere in the 30’s…TX So is barely over 10%! We all could stand to do better.

  2. As I read through the summary of schools, they all appear generic in description; the only exception- Howard U. With descriptive and decidedly bias use of adjectives; “offering unique educational experiences for students” , “boasts an enrollment of over…” “…Our nation’s capital..” . This HBCU summary reads like a
    recruiter’s dream compared to the others. Kudos
    to the publicist who sent the copy, or is the
    writer a Howard grad?

  3. Florida A&M may be #1 in terms of lifestyle and off-campus activities, but not where it really matters. Florida A&M is a horrible institution. Can’t speak for the other HBCUs, but my overall memory of FAMU is painful. I graduated 8 years ago and I still get extremely upset every time I think about that school. The administration was terrible. Students would get treated like step-children whenever they needed to speak with someone in the financial aid or student account offices. Paperwork would “repeatedly” get misplaced. Phone messages never get returned. The only way to speak with someone would be if you stand in a line as long as those similar to people waiting to buy a pair of retro Air Jordans. You spend thousands of dollars in tuition fees hoping to receive quality service, but you end up at the mercy of people who are counting down the minutes until lunch break. I wouldn’t send any of my children to that “institute of disappointment” and would warn anyone that I cared about not to encourage their relatives to attend their either.


  5. James, if you were so unhappy why didnt you just leave? I LOVED my time at FAMU and would go back in a heartbeat. If you think FAMU was the only university with financial aid or administration woes you are sadly mistaken. Like the article said, not every school is for everybody and just because you didn’t appreciate your experience doesn’t mean it’s a horrible institution. #rattler4life

  6. I graduated from FAMU 10 years and I had a completely different experience than James. I enjoyed my time at FAMU and unlike him I would encourage people to attend.

  7. I am a NC A&T SU MS graduate and I am so proud to see the ranking. I attended a larger majority white university for my BS and left with only a student loan. Even though the ranking is on largest HBCUs, I felt nothing but a small community of family. Dr. Morris would walk the halls and remind males not to wear hats in the building. The support and guidance was great. Yes, there were some processes that could be improved, but remember that HBCUs don’t get the funding/staff as other schools.

    I also saw undergraduate students in the School of Technology begin internships their freshman and sophomore year, ensuring that they were prepared for employment when they left. The creation of a “team” environment vs “individual” was one of the best practices I utilize in corporate America today. I left NC A&T SU with several offers. Like with many things in life, students need to take advantage of the opportunities or they become part of the low graduation rate.

  8. I am a graduate of an HBCU and it was a wonderful experience for me overall. There were ups and downs as it is with anything in life. Since leaving, I’ve earned a doctorate and have served in college administration as well as faculty positions and I’ve drawn a lot from my KY State University undergrad and masters matriculations. What I try to tell my students is…college is WHAT YOU MAKE IT.

  9. “The administration IS terrible”
    8 years and not much has changed, I’m here now. It’s the culture. I repeatedly tell people FAMU is that rotten relative every family has.
    We have a number of celebrities that came outta FAM that want zero affiliation. FAMU is a good place, they just have to work on professionalism and really practice “Excellence with Caring” throughout!!

  10. James if FAMU was so horrible why did you stay for 8 years?? Seems like a long time to stay at a place where you were unhappy…I attended FAMU, graduated in 4.5 years with a business degree, never had problems with financial aid, the registrar,etc and landed a great job with a Fortune 100 company. I don’t think is right of you to generalize the university bc of your misfortunes especially since that same university produced so many influential people who are proud they graduated …..

  11. The Jaguars of Southern University and A&M College are en route to return to their rightful place among the TOP 10! #SUBR100

  12. At Bowie State, we have a bit over 5,000 students, but the administration is all kinds of bull. I thought this was just Bowie, but I’m starting to see that this is the HBCU style of professionalism. We’ve got to do better. HBCU’s are important and they’re needed. But if the administration treats the students as if they’re collectively a nuisance, then HBCU’s will continue the downward spiral of becoming a dying breed. We’ve got to take care of our own. Our lives, our history, our dignity depends (in part) on how well we cherish our institutions.

  13. For everyone disgruntled FAMU or HBCU grad, there are likely 15 to 20 other who would say they enjoyed their experience and wouldn’t trade it for the world.

    I’m one of those that enjoyed my FAMU experience and the great opportunities it afforded me.

    I found the administrators caring and my professors knowable and supportive and willing to go the extra mile for their students.

  14. I got a 6 figure job in my major because of the connections I made with alumni at North Carolina A&T. NO COMPLAINTS

  15. I started my academic career at NC A&T. However, after two years I transferred to a smaller HBCU (I thought it would have been a better fit) and I hated it, hated it, hated it. A&T is definitely a great school and I hate that I transferred but it’s all about perspective.

  16. I graduated from N. C. A&T 40 years ago, and my AGGIE PRIDE is still alive! Over the years I found that the education I received there was great preparation for my subsequent endeavors, including my career and graduate studies at two major “mainstream” universities. To those who have complaints about your HBCU, look at the larger picture. Are you getting a good education, making contacts for the future, benefitting from practical experiences that will give you an edge among your competitors? If so, don’t sweat the small stuff. It is the EDUCATION that matters most. I am retired now, andI am forever grateful for my HBCU education.

  17. Bigger ain’t necessarily BETTER (much like your beloved “100” ain’t got NOTHIN’ on my Marching Wildcats!!! LOL) #LetsGoWildcats #BCU

  18. BlackCalvinist

    Julius – the thing with Bowie is that you go to Bowie to learn to survive with little resources. I’d never trade my time at Bowie and I had a *lot* of time there…lol….when I got there, Haley hadn’t been built yet (it was a parking lot), the stadium was where the track is now and the spot where the stadium is was a swamp. When I left, the CLT had been built and they were working on the (then) new science building next to Crawford (which is now right next to the fine arts bldg). The ‘plans’ for a fine arts building were just revealed in 99.

    You guys there now have a gold mine compared to what those of us in the 90’s and early 2000’s had. Even the admin has gotten better, registration process has gotten better (the ‘old’ way was that you prepped for a 6-8 hour process to register for classes and PRAYED that you were in the right line….).

    I hear some of these same complaints from our white counterparts, so don’t think it’s only HBCUs that have customer service problems.

  19. The best experiences in my life was at NSU. My professors were the most caring people. They believed in me so much and pushed me to see my true greatness. I love them all dearly for that.

  20. eh, there’s good and bad at every institution. The financial aid process is definitely one of the challenges that folks deal with, but when that’s taken care of, Priority 1 is academics. If you were there to learn, the little old registrar lines or financial aid office would not have stood in your way.

    Let it be known that of the HBCUs on the list, FAMU has the best Engineer College… We seriously need to do more to get our enrollment numbers up.

  21. James, unfortunately, there will be bad situations at every school in the country, not just HBCUs. I am a proud FAMU graduate who loved every minute of my time at FAMU. I love the school to this day, and put no other HBCU above it. Administrations come and go, but the university remains strong.

  22. I graduated from Virginia State University and was very thankful of the great education they provided. The staff and admin were top notch, but the financial aid/accounts office was a mess. But I know this to be true of George Mason University where there were problems in those offices and I am pretty sure this occurs with other institutions so I couldn’t blame that on just HBCUs.

  23. Famu May have there problems just like every other intuition of higher learning, but we still remain the no. 1 choice for students who decides to attend an hbcu. This is 5 th year and haven’t had any problems with anything. Also for u marching Wildcats, bring home a sudler award and then y’all can maybe compare yourselves to the incomparable marching 100.

  24. So sorry you had a bad experience at FAMU. I never had such problems and I was one the honor students that attended FAMU.If one considers it a party school is usually because that is what that person was doing. My experience in the School of Business was superior. My professors expected nothing but the best and there were no handouts. So I hope you are not grading a school because you had to stand in line versus what type of academic teachings that were available to you. I also can understand how frustrating it can be when you are depending on your grant money to survive and the school is giving you the run around about your money. Trust me this is a common occurrence on most college campuses..
    Hope all turned out well for you if you left FAMU and attended another college, or even if you just dropped out all together.

    Best Wishes

  25. I LOVE HBCU’s especially my alma mater FAMU. I am proud to hear the positive comments and also acknowledge the reality that James and others expressed. Those negatives have been negatives for too long. At the end of the day, though, we received an education and life lessons that allow us to be who we are today. Send your kids and your neighbors kids to an HBCU….even if it is not your alma mater. Get active in your alumni chapters and give back.

  26. FAMU has contributed significantly to my ability to maneuver through the corporate sector. I am not an SBI graduate, but every professor that I have encountered at that institution has challenged me academically. I have never received an A that I didn’t work for. FAMU not only prepared me academically and professionally, but it also challenged me socially which in my opinion was the most valuable lesson of all. In the real world you are only as valuable as those you are connected with. A large part of my post college success is a direct result of networking. I first learned that on the highest of 7 hills.

  27. Your experience is what you make of it. Sure the administration could have been better at FAM…however I know plenty of successful people from my class (c/o 08′). I graduated 6 years ago and still brag about my wonderful institution. Most HBCUs have problems with administration….but if you think about the overall picture….there is no place like FAMU!

  28. I went to a college that was not an HBCU and I never had any of those issues that James outlined above.

  29. Wow, article completely missed Southern University A & M College, which is the only HBCU operating a System with 3 campus (Southern University in Baton Rouge, Shreveport and New Orleans).

  30. Sorry, but I have to disagree. FAMU does have it’s issues (as do all Universities…HBCU’s and PWI’s), but as a 2013 grad my experience was slightly different. I definitely dealt with some administrative issue in my 1st 2 years, but by my last 2 years I learned to be savvy enough to find the people who could most efficiently help me, and to be thorough enough that they were forced to be held accountable for any mistakes (there were very few after my 1st year). Most Rattlers have been through administrative hell, but as far as the faculty, the coursework, the networking opportunities, etc. we have some of the BEST in the nation. My friend, another 2013 graduate, has interned with MTV, ABC, Black Enterprise, won a student emmy in 2013, and currently works in production for another cable network. I am currently earning my PhD at a top 10 institution in Chemical Biology. I believe the things you take from FAMU are determined by the things you invest in FAMU and obtaining a thorough and well-rounded education. Every time there was a mishap, I felt like FAMU was ruining my life, but 1 year post-grad, I mostly remember the amazing friends, faculty, and academic opportunities I was exposed to in undergrad.

  31. North Carolina A&T by far is the best HBCU in the nation. The students live up to the HBCU culture. They have some of the best engineering programs in the nation. Their professors rank amongst the nations top researchers. The university’s ROTC is also ranked among the top 10 in the nation. They have over all commissioned more officers than any other HBCU and any ROTC program in the state of NC. Their engineering students fill up most of the nations jobs and are highly competitive. Over all NCA&T is the best HBCU in the country.

  32. The graduation rate at the University of Virginia, the University of Michigan and the University of Wisconsin-Madison are all under 60% No one-that is no university-Public University has a graduation rate of 80% or higher over four years. What could be done, and by the way I am a proud Eagle from NCCU who attended both Chapel Hill and NCSU in Raleigh, is step the mandate to graduate in four instead over fourteen years-I am being facetious of course. The average number of years to graduate is just under seven. This is because many go to college, but most don’t graduate. They misuse the tax payer’s money! So, mandate 15-16 credits per semester and this will keep them on track to graduate in three to four years! While we are at it, boost the GPA necessary to get a degree to a 2.3 because a 2.0 is too close to a 1.9 which will keep you from graduating!

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