The debate about the importance of Historically Black Colleges and Universities in current, post-racial society has been ongoing for what seems like a lifetime. Due to the fact that a greater number of African American students have been attending Predominantly White Institutions (PWIs) of higher education since the 1960s, the relevance of HBCUs has been questioned.
Prior to 1964, African Americans were excluded from attending predominantly white colleges and universities. African Americans attended higher education institutions known as Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) instead. Unfortunately, these schools were not recognized as accredited or efficiently financially supported until the Higher Education Act of 1965. The Act 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] 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.”
Currently there are over 100 HBCUs in the nation, which include private and public institutions, community and four-year programs, medical and law schools. As of 2015 these institutions enrolled 9 of the 11 percent of all African American undergraduates in higher education today. While attending, black students not only receive quality higher education, but they gain a sense of identity in a nurturing environment, become connected to those who are concerned for the minority community, and experience one of the few safe spaces left for African Americans today.
Many believe that black higher institutions are inferior to predominantly white institutions, thinking that PWIs would better prepare them for society. They also believe that HBCUs only enroll African American students, which is largely false. Unlike other institutions, HBCUs are some of the most diverse higher education institutions in the nation. And the truth of the matter is that HBCUs are just as relevant now as they were then.
Statistics have shown that HBCUs are the most significant in producing African American professionals. 65% of all black physicians, 50% of black engineers, and 35% of all black lawyers have graduated from an HBCU. HBCUs graduate 75% more of their African American students than other schools do.
A 2015 Gallup-Purdue survey involving 55,812 college graduates aged 18 and older who received Bachelor’s degrees between 1940 and 2015, including 520 black HBCU graduates and 1,758 black graduates of other institutions, reveals that black HBCU graduates are more likely than black graduates of other institutions to be thriving, particularly financially. Four in 10 black HBCU graduates are thriving financially, compared with fewer than three in 10 black graduates of other schools. 55% of HBCU graduates strongly agree that their higher education institutions prepared them for life after graduation compared to 29% of black graduates of other institutions.
There are many statistics out there supporting the importance of Historically Black Institutions, but the relevance of such schools remains in thought. There is no doubt that the experience at an HBCU is much different from that of a predominantly white institution. There is also no doubt that the education curriculum at an HBCU is different also, but the education is just as valuable. And so is the institution.