What are HBCUs and Why Are They Still Important

Historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) are higher education institutions made to meet the educational needs of black students; they were created after the civil war. HBCUs are so special because, at one point in history, it was illegal for blacks to learn how to read, write, and receive a formal education. Whites in certain cities threatened to kill blacks due to the belief that black people receiving an education would put them at some sort of disadvantage. Even when laws changed and blacks were allowed to go to school, for a while they couldn't attend schools with anyone besides their own kind. Thus, having a place specially made for black students to learn and thrive in the professional world is essential and extremely valuable.


Predominately black spaces like HBCUs have sheltered blacks for a long time. Not only do these institutions provide an important space for the fight for civil rights, equality, and black liberation, but they offer support and empowerment, diversity, enriching academic content, affordability, a sense of belonging, memorable social experiences, and good opportunities for professional networking.


HBCUs create an atmosphere that is tailor-made for students of color. They foster the perfect environment for the opportunity of higher learning for black intellectuals. The campus climate of historically black colleges and universities are shaped for black students to succeed. These institutions unite diverse learners from all over the world in one place to reach common academic, professional, and extracurricular goals.


HBCUs are not only institutions of higher learning, but they also educate black students about their history, culture, and most of all, their identity and ability. Hence the history behind these universities, these schools also act as vehicles of freedom and black liberation. Students of such schools have been known to peacefully protest and are the voice of their community when reparations need to be made. For example, students at Morgan State University created a large scale photo installation around the theme of “Black Lives Matter.” Students from Howard University gathered in front of the White House to protest the grand jury decision in the Michael Brown case.


The HBCU experience is like no other. From the marching band, dance teams, Greek life, homecoming, academic content, career readiness, inspiration and motivation from other students and leaders on campus who relate to and look like them, it is undeniable that these universities are needed and necessary for black communities and students.

Although it is true that across the nation only nine percent of all African American college students go to an HBCU, they still play an important role in the American system of higher education. For most of America’s history, African Americans who desired a college education could only get it from an HBCU.


According to the Thurgood Marshall College Fund (TMCF), HBCUs disproportionately enroll low-income, first-generation and academically underprepared college students –promptly the students that the country most needs to obtain college degrees. Research shows that more than 75% of students at HBCUs rely on Pell Grants and nearly 13% rely on PLUS Loans to meet their college expenses. HBCUs have 1/8 of the average size of endowments than historically white colleges and universities. Against these odds, HBCUs historically have successfully provided an affordable education to millions of students of color, graduating the many of America’s African American teachers, doctors, judges, engineers, and other STEM professionals.


The extant economic, political, and social precariousness of black life in America shows that ultimately, historically black colleges and universities are still important and that we need more settings like HBCUs, not fewer.

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