FAQs and Facts About HBCUs

As you develop your college list, you might come across the term “HBCU.” These letters stand for “Historically Black Colleges and Universities”. But what exactly does that mean for you? Can you apply to them even if you’re not a minority? Keep reading to find out what HBCUs are and some of the best ones in the United States!

Student at an HBCU.

What are HBCUs?

HBCU stands for Historically Black Colleges and Universities. The term really refers to schools that primarily served African Americans prior to the Civil Rights Movement of 1964. Most HBCUs—over 100 schools in total—were founded after the American Civil War. After Congress passed the Second Morrill Act of 1890, states who did not have integrated land grant colleges and universities had to establish land grant schools for Black students.

Generally, these schools are located in the southern states. Formed in 2015, the Bipartisan HBCU Caucus advocates their interests in Congress. It has 30 Representatives as members of the caucus. HBCUs also receive funding from the federal government due to their historical status.

Why Are Historically Black Colleges Important?

Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) were initially established to provide freed slaves and their descendants with opportunities for higher education and career advancement. Today, they play a crucial role in offering valuable experiences for African Americans, fostering a sense of community and cultural connection, and addressing persistent academic achievement gaps.

Who Can Apply to an HBCU?

Anyone can apply to an HBCU! These schools have always accepted students of other racial identities, and several of them have large percentages of non-African American students.

Though the Black student population has decreased at HBCUs, the schools maintain that they are continuing their original mission of providing academic opportunities for those who might not have many options. Studies have shown that African American students tend to have better support systems at HBCUs. They also tend to be more comfortable in their sense of well-being after graduation, according to the Urban Institute.

How Many HBCUs Are There?

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, there are approximately 107 HBCUs in the United States—56 private and 51 public. Together, these schools have about 228,000 students enrolled.

The state with the most HBCUs is Alabama, a few examples being Alabama A&M University – Huntsville, Miles College, Talladega College, and Tuskegee University.

Do you Have to Be African American to Attend an HBCU?

No, you do not have to be African American to attend an HBCU. Many HBCUs across the country are becoming more diverse. For instance, Morgan State University in Baltimore has seen a rising number of non-African American students apply and attend in recent years. However, African Americans still make up the majority of students at Morgan State, representing about 68.8% of the student population.

10 Top HBCUs

While there are currently more than one hundred HBCUs, some rank better than others. Click here for the top 25 best HBCUs in the United States and get a quick preview of the top 10 right here:


Founded in 1924, Spelman College holds the distinction of being the oldest all-women’s HBCU in the United States. The private institution maintains a selective admission process, accepting just over 50% of applicants. Notably, Spelman College has produced numerous graduates who have pursued studies in diverse fields such as Psychology, Biology, and Political Science.


One of the most impressive and renowned historically Black colleges in the nation is Howard University. Howard produces the most Black doctorate recipients of any non-profit institution. From its founding in 1867, the school has been open to students of all genders and races. Notable alumni include writers Toni Morrison and Ta-Nehisi Coates as well as actress Taraji P. Henson.


The Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University is also known as Florida A&M or FAMU. Founded in 1887, it is the only public HBCU in the state. Many students at this university major in Health Services, Psychology, and Business Administration and Management.


Morehouse College is an all-male HBCU located in Atlanta, Georgia. It was founded in 1867 and is a member of the Atlanta University Center. When the college first opened, it was a seminary university, but in later years it added a liberal arts curriculum.


TU, a private HBCU is located on a 5,200 acre campus named the Tuskegee Institute National Historic Site. Known as the Golden Tigers, student-athletes wear crimson and old gold and are part of the NCAA Division II. Students enjoy a 9:1 student to faculty and the school has a strong 80% first-year retention rate.


Sometimes referred to as simply A&T, the North Carolina A&T University got its start in 1891 as the Agricultural and Mechanical College for the Colored Race. The school would undergo several name changes over the years. It is currently the largest HBCU in the United States.


Winston-Salem State University accepted just over 73% of applicants in the 2022 admissions cycle. Many went on to study Registered Nursing, Biology, Health Care Administration, and Kinesiology and Exercise Science.


Alcorn State University (founded in 1871) is the nation’s oldest, historically Black, land-grant university and the second oldest public university in Mississippi. It’s earned nationwide recognition not only for being affordable, but also for its excellence in nursing, music, STEM, education, agriculture, and the liberal arts.


DSU is a fairly selective school with an acceptance rate of about 59%. The three most popular majors at DSU are Mass Communication/Media Studies, Psychology, and Criminology. The DSU Hornets compete in NCAA Division I athletics and wear red and Columbia blue. The campus is located near the Dover Motor Freeway.


Affectionately referred to as “Our Home by the Sea,” Hampton University looks south across the harbor of Hampton Roads in Virginia. The school’s acceptance rate is 44% and its student-to-faculty ratio is 15:1. Hampton student-athletes wear blue and white to compete in NCAA Division I sporting events and are known as the Pirates.

Hidden-Gem HBCUs:

  1. Claflin University
  2. Tougaloo College
  3. Huston-Tillotson University
  4. Bennett College
  5. Talladega College
  6. Paine College
  7. Harris-Stowe State University
  8. Philander Smith College

Interested in attending an HBCU? Finding the right one doesn’t have to be difficult. College Raptor’s FREE College Match tool helps you identify the best options for your wants, needs, goals, and achievements. Get started here!