Historically black colleges and universities
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Historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) are institutions of higher education in the United States that were established before 1964 with the intention of serving the black community. They have always allowed admission to students of all races and in recent years some have lost their black majorities.
There are 106 historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) in the United States, including public and private institutions, community and four-year institutions, medical and law schools. Most were created in the aftermath of the American Civil War and are located in the former slave states, although a few notable exceptions exist.
Most HBCUs were established after the American Civil War, often with the assistance of northern religious missionary organizations. However, Cheyney University of Pennsylvania (1837), Lincoln University (Pennsylvania) (1854), and Wilberforce University (1856), were established for blacks prior to the American Civil War. Established in 1865, Shaw University was the first HBCU in the South to be established after the American Civil War.
The Higher Education Act of 1965, as amended, defines a "part B institution" 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] to be a reliable authority as to the quality of training offered or is, according to such an agency or association, making reasonable progress toward accreditation." Part B of the 1965 Act provides for direct federal aid to Part B institutions.
In 1862, the Morrill Act provided for land grant colleges in each state. Some educational institutions in the North or West were open to blacks since before the Civil War. But 17 states, mostly in the South, had segregated systems and generally excluded black students from their land grant colleges. In response, Congress passed the second Morrill Act of 1890, also known as the Agricultural College Act of 1890, requiring states to establish a separate land grant college for blacks if blacks were being excluded from the existing land grant college. Many of the HBCUs were founded by states to satisfy the Second Morrill Act. These land grant schools continue to receive annual federal funding for their research, extension and outreach activities. The Higher Education Act of 1965 established a program for direct federal grants to HBCUs, including federal matching of private endowment contributions. The second Morrill Act in 1890 mandated that an institution of higher learning would blacks at the same rate as the for white students.
Other educational institutions may have large numbers of blacks in their student body, but as they were founded (or opened their doors to African Americans) after the implementation of the Sweatt v. Painter and Brown v. Board of Education (1954) rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court (the court decisions which outlawed racial segregation of public education facilities) and the Higher Education Act of 1965, they are not classified as historically black colleges, but have been termed "predominantly black."
Starting in 2001, directors of libraries of several HBCUs began discussions about ways to pool their resources and work collaboratively. In 2003, this partnership was formalized as the HBCU Library Alliance, "a consortium that supports the collaboration of information professionals dedicated to providing an array of resources designed to strengthen historically black colleges and Universities and their constituents."
Of the 107 HBCU institutions in America today, 27 offer doctoral programs and 52 provide graduate degree programs at the Master's level. At the undergraduate level, 83 of the HBCUs offer a bachelor's degree program and 38 of these schools offer associate degrees. Roughly 10% of the HBCUs offered online degrees in 2013.
The portion of bachelor's degrees awarded to black students by HBCUs has steadily dropped from 35% in 1976 to 21.5% in 2001. From 1976 to 2001, total HBCU enrollment grew from 180,059 to 222,453, with most of this increase being attributable to the growth of black females enrollment from 88,379 to 117,766. Today, with black students now attending schools that were once off limits, the percentage of black students who attend historically black colleges has declined from 90 percent in 1960 to just 11 percent.
Following the enactment of Civil Rights laws in the 1960s, all educational institutions that receive federal funding have undertaken affirmative action to increase their racial diversity. Some historically black colleges and universities now have non-black majorities, notably West Virginia State University and Bluefield State College whose student body has been over 80% white since the mid-1960s.
Many non-state-supported HBCUs are struggling financially, due to the increased cost of delivering private education to students and declining financial aid for students.
Though federal law required states to treat them and predominantly white colleges equally, states never did. Lawsuits over the years have argued that states still fail to do so. In 2004, Mississippi agreed to pay three historically black colleges $503 million when it settled a 30-year-old lawsuit accusing the state of discrimination in how it funded and supported its black public colleges. Alabama settled a similar case in 2006, and in 2013, a federal judge found that Maryland discriminated against its historically black colleges.
As they have fought to get their equal share of government funding, these colleges have also struggled to build endowments. Nationally, black students are the most likely to borrow money to pay for school, and they also graduate with the highest student-loan debt. That means it takes them much longer before they can write checks to their alma maters instead of to their loan holders.
According to a study published by the UNCF, historically black colleges and universities are responsible for producing approximately 70% of all black doctors and dentists, 50% of black engineers and public school teachers, and 35% of black lawyers.
Racial diversity at HBCUs
As colleges work harder to maintain enrollment levels and because of increased racial harmony and the low cost of tuition, the percentage of non-African American enrollment has tended to climb. The following table highlights HBCUs with high non-African American enrollments:
|College name||Percent African American||Percent Other|
|Bluefield State College||13||75|
|West Virginia State University||17||72|
|Kentucky State University||64||34|
|Delaware State University||70||25|
|Lincoln University (Pennsylvania)||79||18|
|University of the District of Columbia||74||17|
|Elizabeth City State University||81||17|
|Fayetteville State University||78||16|
|Winston Salem State University||81||16|
|Xavier University of Louisiana||74||13|
|North Carolina A&T State University||88||12|
Other HBCUs with relatively high non-African American student populations
The following list illustrates the percentage of white student populations currently attending historically black colleges and universities according to statistical profiles compiled by the U.S. News and World Report Best Colleges 2011 edition: Langston University 12%; Shaw University 12%; Tennessee State University 12%; University of Maryland Eastern Shore 12%; North Carolina Central University 10%. The U.S. News and World Report's statistical profiles indicate that several other HBCUs have relatively significant percentages of non-African American student populations consisting of Asian, Hispanic, International and white American students.
Special academic programs
HBCU libraries have formed the HBCU Library Alliance. That alliance together with Cornell University have a joint program to promote the digitization of HBCU collections. The project is funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
Additionally, an increasing number of historically black colleges and universities are offering online education programs. As of November 23, 2010, 19 historically black colleges and universities offer online degree programs. Much of the growth in these programs is driven by partnerships with online educational entrepreneurs like Ezell Brown.
HBCU institutions have a rich legacy of matriculating many African-American leaders in the worlds of business, law, science, education, military service, entertainment, and sports. This list of alumni includes people such as Oprah Winfrey, Martin Luther King Jr., W. E. B. Du Bois, Althea Gibson, Michael Strahan, Alice Walker, Thurgood Marshall, Spike Lee, Rod Paige, Anika Noni Rose, Douglas Wilder, and the Tuskegee Airmen.
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Historically black colleges and universities.|
- White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities – details about this federal initiative, including its history and recent achievements
- Information about HBCU from Peterson's including tuition, selectivity and cost