Top Historically Black Colleges & Universities (HBCU)

Jun 24, 2019

The college experience is about more than just academics, it also encompasses social, cultural, and empirical elements. Students interested in attending a high-quality school that values black culture and history can find this list of the top 25 helpful in their college decision-making process.

Top HBCU Schools researched the historically black colleges and universities (HBCU) in the United States in an effort to identify those worth calling the best. HBCUs are defined by the Higher Education Act of 1965 as accredited historically black colleges and universities established before 1964 whose primary mission was, and is, to educate black Americans. Our rankings take into account the overall quality of the institution, the demographics of the student body, the range of disciplines taught, and the school's overall reputation for excellence, among other public data.'s rankings are unique in that they emphasize accessibility, affordability, and quality of education, which we considered the most important attributes in our ranking lists. Each of these schools offer various program options, such as popular degree choices In business or education.

1. Spelman College

Atlanta's Spelman College is an all-female, 4-year private college in which 97% of the enrollment is black or African American. Spelman stands out for many reasons, one of which because the school is dedicated to empowering women to create positive social change across a range of cultures. Spelman also boasts a 75% graduation rate, and its selectivity is indicated by its acceptance rate of just 41%. Further, the National Science Foundation has recognized Spelman as the leading alma mater of black women who go on to earn doctorates in the sciences.

2. Howard University

Howard University in Washington, D.C., is a private, doctoral research university. It has more than 10,000 students pursuing degrees, which include more than 120 different programs offered through 13 schools and colleges. Notable alumni include Sen. Kamala Harris, Justice Thurgood Marshall, Rep. Elijah Cummings and author Toni Morrison. Founded in 1867, Howard has awarded more than 20,000 degrees and certificates, and it leads the nation in African American graduates who go on to become medical students. HU is also the leading producer of Rhodes scholars among HBCU schools.

3. Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University

Tallahassee's Florida A&M University has nearly 11,000 students and offers 54 bachelor's degrees and more than 40 graduate programs. FAMU prides itself on offering an affordable quality education to many students who would otherwise not get a college education. The school enrolls students from more than 70 nations - and from all religious, ethnic and social backgrounds. FAMU is known for its Center for Viticulture and Small Fruit Research, a leader in grape research, as well as the Center for Plasma Science and Technology and Sustainability Institute.

4. Hampton University

Located in Hampton, Virginia, Hampton University counts Booker T. Washington among its alums. Hampton is a private, not-for-profit institution that offers a broad range of liberal arts, technical and graduate programs, and it offers students a wide range of activities - including over 100 student organizations. Hampton considers itself a school deeply rooted in the historical African American experience but with its sights on the global community of the 21st century. The student body is 96% black or African American and 67% female.

5. Rust College

Located in Holly Springs, Mississippi, Rust College was founded in 1866 by the Methodist Episcopal Church to teach elementary subjects to emancipated black adults and their children. In 2017, this private, not-for-profit institution had 860 undergraduate students, of whom 96% were black or African American. It offers undergraduate degrees in many fields, including business administration, primary and secondary education, journalism, English, biology, chemistry, mathematics and social sciences. The college is associated with the United Methodist Church and honors traditions drawn from American and African American Christian heritage.

6. Morehouse College

Notable alums of this all-male college in Atlanta include Martin Luther King, Jr. and Spike Lee. A private, not-for-profit institution, Morehouse has close to 2,200 undergraduate students and is the world's only HBCU for men. Morehouse is a national leader in black, male graduates who go on to pursue doctorates. The National Science Foundation has ranked Morehouse as the nation's top producer of black men to receive doctorates in education, life and physical sciences, math and computer science, psychology and social sciences, and humanities and the arts.

7. Claflin University

Founded in 1869, Claflin University was the first university in South Carolina open to students of all races. Located in Orangeburg, SC, Claflin has over 2,100 students and is affiliated with the United Methodist Church and is considered the sister school to Boston University. Claflin offers 37 undergraduate and four graduate degrees, in addition to online coursework. Among its graduates, 29% attend graduate school and 76% join the workforce after graduating.

8. Oakwood University

Oakwood is a Seventh-day Adventist university in Huntsville, Alabama, that offers 58 majors. Oakwood opened in 1896 to educate former slaves on a plantation where Dred Scott once worked, and their mission is to transform students into servants of God and humanity through a biblically based education. The university has schools of arts and sciences, business, education and social sciences, nursing and health professions, and religion.

9. Tougaloo College

Located in Tougaloo, Mississippi, this college was founded is 1869 and is affiliated with the United Church of Christ and Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). Its undergraduate enrollment is 97% black or African American and 66% female. Tougaloo College offers 29 undergraduate degrees in education, the humanities, and natural and social sciences, as well as graduate degrees in teaching and child development. This college Is known for housing the Mississippi Civil Rights Collection of papers, photographs and oral histories which document the American civil rights struggle in this state and elsewhere.

10. Fisk University

A private college in Nashville, Tennessee, Fisk University is the oldest institution of higher learning in Nashville, and its most famous alum was the renowned scholar and activist W.E.B. Du Bois, who graduated in 1888. The college is best known for its Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics (STEM) programs and for its courses in business administration. It has a School of Humanities and Behavioral Social Sciences and a School of Natural Sciences, Mathematics and Business, and as well as honors programs, pre-professional programs and support services for students having academic difficulty.

11. Bowie State University

This four-year public school in Bowie, Maryland, was founded in 1865 and is one of the oldest historically black institutions in the nation. It offers 22 undergraduate majors and 38 graduate programs and prides itself on offering a good education to under-represented populations. It's a top producer of minority degrees - especially in the teacher education and technology fields.

12. Grambling State University

Grambling State University in northern Louisiana was originally founded in 1901 as the Colored Industrial and Agricultural School. Grambling offers more than 40 undergrad and graduate degree and certificate programs, including a doctorate in developmental education. The campus contains several buildings listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Grambling is in the process of building a museum honoring its legendary football coach Eddie G. Robinson, who until 2003 was the winningest coach in NCAA Division 1 history.

13. Dillard University

Dillard University is a private liberal arts school in New Orleans. It traces its origins to 1869, and the modern university opened in 1935. Affiliated with the United Methodist Church and the United Church of Christ, Dillard offers comprehensive undergraduate studies in the liberal arts. The school prides itself on its picturesque 55-acre campus in a residential area of New Orleans, full of green spaces, trees and white buildings. Dillard University extends its reach to even more students through their Distance Education for Authentic Learning (DEAL) program, which offers low-cost hybrid and fully online courses, combining classroom instruction with learning through instructional technology.

14. Fort Valley State University

Located in Fort Valley, Georgia, this schools calls itself one of the most affordable colleges in the country. Founded in 1895, Fort Valley State University is known for its mathematics, education, agriculture and engineering programs. It has the only four-year veterinarian technology program in Georgia, and it hosts more than 60 clubs and organizations in which students can pursue their interests. FVSU is one of the nation's top producers of African American math graduates.

15. Southern University and A&M College

Located in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, this public school offers more than 55 degree programs - the majority of whichh are nationally accredited by specialty organizations. Southern University was originally founded in New Orleans in 1880 to educate people of color, and it relocated to Baton Rouge in 1914. The Southern University Law Center is one of only two public law schools in Louisiana, and its Nelson Mandela College of Government and Social Sciences is the only College of Government in the state.

16. University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff

The University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff is a four-year public university offering more than 30 undergrad programs. UAPB has a 15:1 student-faculty ratio and hosts more than 90 student organizations, and it's a member of the Arkansas Research and Education Optical Network, which emphasizes collaborative learning through advanced networking. The second-oldest land-grant institution in the state, UAPB is home to the Economic Research and Development Center, an economic development outreach program.

17. Johnson C. Smith University

Originally called the Freedmen's College of North Carolina, Johnson C. Smith University was founded in 1867 in Charlotte. Today this private, not-for-profit research university affiliated is with the Presbyterian Church and offers 22 bachelor's degrees and a master's in social work to more than 1,500 students per year. JCSU was a founding member of the United Negro College Fund in 1944. It has 11 fraternities and sororities, 15 NCAA Division II teams, and 60 student organizations.

18. Tuskegee University

Founded by Booker T. Washington in Tuskegee, Alabama, this private, not-for-profit institution stresses a mastery of liberal arts as a foundation for any career. Tuskegee University offers degrees ranging from bachelor's to doctorates, is known for its engineering and science programs, and is the nation's top producer of black doctoral graduates in veterinary medicine. George Washington Carver headed the Agriculture Department at this school, which is also the alma mater of the famed black World War II pilots known as the Tuskegee Airmen.

19. North Carolina Central University

This 4-year public school in Durham, NC, is one of the largest universities on this list - with more than 8,000 students. Offering bachelor's degrees through doctorates, North Carolina Central University has a top library science program, a respected law school and two cutting-edge biotech research facilities. The NCCU art museum is known for its collection of African American-themed art.

20. Coppin State University

Coppin State University is a public liberal arts university in Baltimore, MD, with nearly 2,900 students. Founded in 1900 under the name Colored High School to train teachers, the school now offers 53 majors and nine graduate programs. Among other specialties, Coppin State University is known for instruction in education, nursing and social work. Coppin operates a fully equipped medical clinic called the Community Nursing Center that provides affordable health care to adults and children.

21. Clark Atlanta University

This private not-for-profit in Atlanta was created by consolidating Atlanta University and Clark College. Affiliated with the United Methodist Church, Clark has about 4,000 students and is the only private HBCU to host a branch of the Phi Kappa Phi honor society. Clark Atlanta University has schools of arts and science, business administration, education and social work, and it's home to the cutting-edge Center for Cancer Research and Therapeutic Development and the Center for Functional Nanoscale Materials.

22. Voorhees College

This private, Episcopal college in Denmark, South Carolina, offers majors in more than a dozen fields, as well as pre-professional programs for aspiring doctors and nurses. Voorhees College has fewer than 500 students, all undergrad. The school has adopted a mix of the teaching philosophies of Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. Dubois, combined with ''an abiding faith in God.'' It offers four national fraternities and four national sororities, two campus publications, political and religious organizations, and a variety of honor, service and leadership societies. Its student-faculty ratio is just 10:1.

23. Lincoln University

Located in southeastern Pennsylvania, Lincoln University is one of the oldest leading HBCU schools in the nation and one of very few north of the Mason-Dixon line. Established in 1854 'for the scientific, classical and theological education of colored youth of the male sex,' Lincoln (which now has more women than men) describes itself as the first degree-granting historically black college in the nation. The most popular majors are human services, digital communication, health science, criminal justice and management.

24. Morgan State University

Baltimore's Morgan State is Maryland's largest historically black institution and has been designated as the state's Preeminent Public Urban Research University. Founded in 1867 to train male ministers, it later admitted women, and in 1915 it received a large $50,000 grant from Andrew Carnegie to move and upgrade its campus. Morgan State ranks among the top schools in the nation for the number of black graduates receiving doctorates, and it awards more bachelor's degrees to African American students than any Maryland school.

25. Talladega College

This private, not-for-profit college in Talladega, Alabama, was founded in 1867 by and for former slaves. Talladega College now has close to 800 students, all them undergraduates, and offers 17 majors. It's affiliated with the United Church of Christ, and the student body is 87% black. Talladega College has a low student-faculty ratio of 12:1, and is an affordable higher education option with 98% of full-time students receiving some form of financial aid.

To get a more in-depth look at our school ranking methodology, please visit's ranking methodology page.

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