Top 10 HBCUs (Historically Black Colleges and Universities)

Historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) were initially established to serve Black students who had been denied the opportunity to pursue higher learning in the years following the Civil War. After the Civil Rights Act of 1964, they received this designation.

 

Many of these institutions have always admitted students of all races and ethnicities; and while today, most have predominantly Black student bodies, students of other races often choose to attend these schools as well. Many HBCUs offer some of the top programs in the country.

 

Below are the top 10 HBCUs, as ranked by U.S. News.

 

1. Spelman College

Location: Atlanta, GA

Acceptance rate: 41%

Undergrad enrollment: 2,097

 

Securing the title of oldest historically Black college for women in the United States, Spelman was originally founded in 1881 as the Atlanta Baptist Seminary. The college offers more than 30 academic majors in the liberal arts and sciences, including environmental studies, art history, photography, and religious studies. Among its notable alumnae are Alice Walker, Stacey Abrams, and Marian Wright Edelman.

 

2. Howard University

Location: Washington, DC

Acceptance rate: 39%

Undergrad enrollment: 6,243

 

Kamala Harris, Thurgood Marshall, Toni Morrison, and Phylicia Rashad are just a few of Howard’s many acclaimed alumni. Founded in 1867, the university has a history of being inclusive of people of all races and sexes. With more than 120 programs across 13 schools, Howard offers degrees in a wide range of disciplines in the arts, humanities, and sciences. It’s particularly known for its STEM programs; the university is ranked as the top producer of African-American undergraduates who go on to earn science and engineering doctorates.

 

3. Xavier University of Louisiana

Location: New Orleans, LA

Acceptance rate: 60%

Undergrad enrollment: 2,530

 

The only historically Black and Catholic university in the U.S., Xavier offers liberal arts programs in areas like business, psychology, bioinformatics, crime and social justice, and jazz studies through its College of Arts and Sciences. Additionally, through a partnership with schools like Tulane University, University of Notre Dame, and others, students may automatically qualify to earn a bachelor’s degree in an engineering field from both Xavier and a partnering school that offers engineering majors. The university also has a College of Pharmacy, offering two health graduate degree programs.

 

4. Tuskegee University

Location: Tuskegee, AL

Acceptance rate: 57%

Undergrad enrollment: 2,394

 

The first Black college to be designated as a Registered National Historic Landmark and the only Black college to be designated as a National Historic Site, Tuskegee has many distinctions. Most notably, it’s the number one producer of African-American aerospace science engineers in the U.S. and the only HBCU with a College of Veterinary Medicine granting doctorates, among several others. Divided into seven schools and colleges, the university offers programs in areas like business, engineering, architecture, and more.

 

5. Hampton University

Location: Hampton, VA

Acceptance rate: 36%

Undergrad enrollment: 3,714

 

Hampton boasts numerous reputable alumni, including Booker T. Washington, Wanda Sykes, and Alberta Williams King. With programs across 10 schools and colleges, the university offers a wide range of technical, liberal arts, and graduate degree paths in fields like engineering, pharmacy, journalism, and more. One of its claims to fame is the Hampton University Museum, the oldest African American museum in the country.

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6. Morehouse College

Location: Atlanta, GA

Acceptance rate: 51%

Undergrad enrollment: 2,238

 

The only all-men’s HBCU in the nation, Morehouse has a number of prestigious programs in areas like biology, business, curatorial studies, and computer science. The college has graduated some of the most well-known and influential leaders in the country, including Martin Luther King, Jr., Spike Lee, and Donn Clendenon.

 

7. Florida A&M University

Location: Tallahassee, FL

Acceptance rate: 36%

Undergrad enrollment: 7,818

 

With 54 bachelor’s degrees, 29 master’s, and 12 doctoral programs, FAMU offers a rich curriculum with degree options including animal science, criminal justice, jazz studies, cardiopulmonary sciences, journalism, and much more. While the main Tallahassee campus is well-known for its beauty, FAMU also has a handful of satellite campuses, one of which houses the college of pharmacy, offering the only nationally-accredited MPH and DrPH degree programs.

 

7. North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University (tie)

Location: Greensboro, NC

Acceptance rate: 58%

Undergrad enrollment: 11,039

 

N.C. A&T is the largest HBCU in the country. The university is particularly well known for its engineering program, though it offers degrees in a number of areas, including agriculture, music, nursing, and speech. N.C. A&T is also one of the top-ranked universities for upward social mobility. Graduates include Jesse Jackson, Ronald McNair, and Janice Bryant Howroyd.

 

9. Claflin University

Location: Orangeburg, SC

Acceptance rate: 55%

Undergrad enrollment: 1,986

 

The first university in South Carolina to be open to all students, regardless of race, Claflin’s mission is to graduate students who will become “visionary leaders.” Across its four schools—the School of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, the School of Humanities and Social Sciences, the School of Business, and the School of Education—Claflin offers majors spanning disciplines like  English Education, Drama Studies, Creative Writing, Biotechnology, Digital Design, and Sports Management.

 

10. Fisk University

Location: Nashville, TN 

Acceptance rate: 93%

Undergrad enrollment: 840

 

Fisk aims to produce graduates who not only excel in their careers but also in their commitment to serving their communities. The liberal arts-based university consists of the School of Humanities & Behavioral Sciences, School Of Natural Sciences, Mathematics & Business, and the School of Graduate Studies. One unique offering is the Fisk-Vanderbilt bridge program, which enables underrepresented groups to earn a PhD in several STEM fields at Vanderbilt University.

 

For more information on applying to HBCUs, check out A Guide to the Common Black College Application, which provides details on how to use a low-cost platform that allows you to apply to more than 50 HBCUs across the country. Still on the fence about whether or not to even apply? We’ve got you covered!

 

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Laura Berlinsky-Schine
Senior Blogger at CollegeVine
Short bio
Laura Berlinsky-Schine is a graduate of Johns Hopkins University, where she majored in Creative Writing and minored in History. She lives in Brooklyn, New York and works as a freelance writer specializing in education. She dreams of having a dog.