HBCU Meaning

Historically black colleges or universities (HBCUs) are schools that were founded on the belief that every individual deserves access to a college or higher education. More specifically, the Higher Education Act of 1965, as amended defines an HBCU as:

“any historically black college or university that was established prior to 1964, whose principal mission was, and is, the education of black Americans, and that is accredited by a nationally recognized accrediting agency or association determined by the Secretary of Education.”

Top 10 HBCUs by Graduation Rate: Students assemble outside of the Temple Church Commencement Ceremony on Fisk's University's Historic Campus.
Graduates march out of the Cravath Hall building on Fisk University campus in Nashville, TN. Photo Courtesy of Fisk University

The HBCU Mission

Although HBCU’s were originally founded to provide higher education opportunities for African Americans, they have historically enrolled and graduated many students, regardless of their ethnicity, race, or income level. It has been stated that historically black colleges and universities have a unique chapter in the history of American post-secondary education. Despite the many obstacles these institutions faced, there are currently 107 HBCU’s in the United States. Undoubtedly, they have played a crucial role in the development of black professionals.

Related Post – Top 25 Ranked HBCU's;

HBCUs are only 3% of the nation's educational institutions yet account for:

  • 25% of African-American college graduates earn their degree at an HBCU
  • 50% of African-American public school teachers graduated from an HBCU
  • 50% of all future African American lawyers graduate from an HBCU
  • 80% of all African American judges graduated from an HBCU
  • 38% of all African American healthcare professionals graduated from an HBCU
  • 41% of all degrees in STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, and math) were earned by African American students graduated from an HBCU

The First HBCU

Cheyney University Emlen Hall reading room, early 1900s.
Cheyney University's Emlen Hall reading room in the early 1900s.

The first public HBCU, Cheney University in Pennsylvania was established in 1837. It was also known as the Institute for Colored Youth which opened its doors for

elementary and secondary training which later became college courses. To learn more about the original HBCUs, visit our Oldest HBCUs In the United States page.

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