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Study at a Historically Black Colleges and Universities institution in the USA

November 13, 2015 
Lucy Miller

The organisation Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) works to promote those institutions in the United States that were set up with the primary purpose of educating African Americans, starting at undergraduate level.


ThinkstockPhotos-78049237The Historically Black Colleges and Universities Undergraduate Program (HBCU-UP) was founded in 2000 by the National Science Foundation (NSF), and has since awarded a large number of bachelor’s degrees to black American students, focusing on STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) subjects – those that most require graduates in order to adequately address the needs of the US jobs market.


The organisation aims to encourage and support African American students – a minority group in Higher Education in the United States.


What is a historically black college or university?


Historically black colleges and universities are institutions, defined in the Higher Education Act 1965, 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 (sic) accrediting agency or association.”


The first historically black college, CHEYNEY University in Pennsylvania, was established in 1837. Today the colleges provide education for students of all races, including 20% of all African Americans with undergraduate degrees, and were called “vibrant centers (sic) of intellectual inquiry and engines of scientific discovery and innovation” by President Obama during HBCU Week 2011. 


Historically black colleges:


–          Educate 9% of all African American college students

–          Generate 25% of all bachelor’s degrees in STEM fields earned by African Americans

–          Award 14% of all African American engineering degrees

–          Produce graduates at less than half the cost of other four-year colleges and universities


There are 105 historically black colleges in the United States.


The majority are found in the east and southeast, with institutions in states including Texas, Oklahoma and Louisiana, and stretching through the Carolinas and eastern Midwest, as far north as Michigan:


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What does HBCU stand for?


HBCU works to bring together all the United States’ historically black colleges under one banner, awarding STEM degrees to underrepresented minority populations. Development, implementation and study of models that provide increased chances for minorities to work within STEM graduate programmes and eventually related careers is the crux of the organisation, and various funding opportunities and research projects are implemented in order to achieve this.  


Initiatives such as the White House-led National HBCU Week Conference and the HBCU All-Star Students and Champions of Change programmes also work to achieve HBCU’s aims.


HBCU internationally


Traditionally, black colleges have been unlikely to either attract international students or send their own students overseas.


It is a situation that has often been cited as a result of low incomes of both the students and the institutions themselves. With the increasing need for graduates to be globally aware, however, HBCU is now looking to increase the international awareness and reputation of its member institutions. HBCU is addressing this need in a number of ways: a trip to China by HBCU institution principals has led to the creation of 1,000 scholarships in the country, for example. Further initiatives, including the setting up of the Spelman Going Global! campaign at Spelman College, a liberal arts college for women in Georgia, have led to an increase in global partnerships with the aim of bolstering international cooperation. A three-year US Department of Education Grant, seeking to internationalise historically black colleges, came to its conclusion in 2013, citing a number of challenges and opportunities for colleges to address.


Historically black colleges are looking to the future, and are increasingly waking up to the need to provide an international education for their students. Over the next few years HBCU institutions across the country will be seeking out the best and brightest students from the international community, as part of their global emergence as leading educational institutions. It’s all part of their commitment to positivity effecting society and contributing to the diversity of the United States – something that, in the context of their history, is at the heart of their mission.


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