This article is published in the 2015 I’m First Guide to College

What HBCUs offer 21st Century Students

By Keisha L. Brown

Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) have played a crucial role in America’s higher education system by educating African Americans who were denied access to white institutions of higher learning in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Today, African American students have access to a wide range of post-secondary institutions, especially since an increasing number of schools are actively recruiting minority students. But despite having more options for higher education than ever before, many students—African Americans and non-blacks alike—are choosing HBCUs for the unique educational experience they offer.

Ethnic and Racial Diversity

In the 21st century, HBCUs aren’t just for black students anymore. Colleges know that in order to be competitive and train students who are prepared to succeed in the global community, they need diversity. More and more HBCUs, especially public HBCUs, are recruiting white and Hispanic students to add to their campuses’ rich ethnic diversity. Even schools whose student bodies are totally African American exhibit remarkable diversity as students from all over the country bring a bit of their regional culture to the campus mix. Some HBCUs boast an impressive international student population too, with students hailing from Africa, the Caribbean, South America and in some cases as far away as the Middle East.

A Legacy of Academic Excellence and Success

While HBCUs represent only 3{53c6eff5ce19621f7316832cfedf08caab022021f1679c62c3f44b8900ceaf72} of American institutions of higher learning, they graduate nearly 25{53c6eff5ce19621f7316832cfedf08caab022021f1679c62c3f44b8900ceaf72} of all African Americans who earn Bachelor’s degrees. HBCUs are leaders in training young professionals—especially in the arts, business and the sciences—who are prepared to address the unique needs of the African American community. HBCUs also provide African American and minority students the opportunity to work with mentors who share the same cultural background as themselves and are successful in their respective fields. The extensive support networks available at HBCUs help students excel in academically rigorous programs. Furthermore, a substantial number of HBCU graduates go on to pursue advanced degrees, often being recruited by elite schools seeking to diversify their graduate programs.

Opportunities for Real World Experience

Every year, numerous national organizations partner with HBCUs to create programs that increase minority, particularly African American, participation in underrepresented fields such as engineering, business, and medicine among others. Businesses and corporations that are committed to increasing diversity often look first to students enrolled in HBCUs to fill internships and part-time positions that offer real world experience and develop leadership skills.

Also, many HBCUs offer students the opportunity to spend a semester or two at other leading universities through domestic exchange programs, which allow students to experience a different academic environment and network with distinguished professionals in a different region of the country.

Choosing between a HBCU or a TWI

Many students struggle with the decision to attend either a HBCU or a traditionally white institution (TWI). While both HBCUs and TWIs provide academically challenging and personally rewarding collegiate experiences, the social dynamics of HBCUs and TWIs are markedly different.

Your college experience can provide you excellent opportunities to break outside of your comfort zone and to grow and adapt in a new environment. Students who went to predominantly white high schools can benefit from the cultural exposure of an HBCU. Also, some HBCUs can be cheaper to attend than TWIs in the same region, but still offer students the same solid academic instruction.

You will be spending the next four years of your life at the college you attend, so put the time, effort and research into finding the school that’s right for YOU. The decision you make can result in one of the most rewarding experiences of your life.

HBCUs United Negro College Fund (UNCF)

Thirty-eight historically black colleges and universities belong to the United Negro College Fund network of member institutions. UNCF provides these colleges and universities with a range of support—operating resources, student scholarships and institutional improvement support—that enables them to keep their academic programs strong and their tuitions affordable: more than 30 percent lower on average than tuition at comparable institutions.

Thurgood Marshall College Fund

The Thurgood Marshall College Fund is proud to be a partner of the public HBCUs. Public HBCUs have been helping to develop outstanding leaders for more than 160 years. They provide the world with young men and women distinguishable by their characteristics—confident, accomplished, productive, and innovative leaders who are socially and economically responsible.

BIO Keisha L. Brown is a graduate of Howard University (‘09) and interned with Center for Student Opportunity.