Top 10 Historically Black Colleges and Universities

Historical significance of HBCUs

In a segregated, post-civil war country, historically black colleges and universities provided black Americans with a quality education. Many well-known and respected artists, politicians, CEOs and political leaders are graduates of the institutions. Today these colleges are still some of the country’s top producers of black doctors, scientists and engineers and offer opportunities to a more diverse student body. These are the top 10 ranked HBCUs.

10. North Carolina Central University

Founded in 1909 as the private National Religious Training School and Chautauqua for the Colored Race, North Carolina Central University underwent several name and ownership changes before settling on its current moniker in 1969, according to the NCCU website. The university was purchased by the state legislature in 1923, and two years later became the first public liberal arts college for black students. NCCU overcame early financial instability, eventually adding graduate programs.

Overall rank: 64, Regional Universities (South)
Total enrollment: 6,355
2011 six-year graduation rate: 44 percent

9. Florida A&M University

Classes began at the State Normal College for Colored Students with just 15 students and two instructors when the school was founded in 1887, according to the university’s website. Now known as Florida A&M University, FAMU has been recognized for its pharmacy school and is known as a leading institution in awarding bachelor’s and doctorate degrees to African-Americans.

Overall rank: 230-301, National Universities
Total enrollment: 8,024
2011 six-year graduation rate: N/A

7 (tie). Claflin University (SC)

Founded in 1869, Claflin University is a small liberal arts college that is affiliated with the Methodist church. The historically black university claims to be the first school in South Carolina open to all races, per the school’s website.

Overall rank: 162 (tie), National Liberal Arts Colleges
Total enrollment: 2,038
2011 six-year graduation rate: 53 percent

7 (tie). North Carolina A&T State University

Founded in the 1890s, the North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University is a national university that produces more African-American engineers than any other HBCU, according to the university’s website.

Overall rank: 230-301, National Universities
Total enrollment: 10,341 students
2011 six-year graduation rate: 44 percent

6. Fisk University (TN)

Founded in 1866, Fisk University is the oldest college in Nashville, Tennessee. The school has several notable alumni who were prominent intellectual and civic leaders, such as sociologist W.E.B. Du Bois and journalist Ida B. Wells.

Overall rank: 152 (tie), National Liberal Arts Colleges
Total enrollment: 664
2011 six-year graduation rate: 53 percent

5. Xavier University of Louisiana

Xavier University of Louisiana is a top producer of African-American medical school applicants, according to data from the Association of American Medical Colleges. Founded as a high school in 1915, the New Orleans university is the nation’s only Catholic HBCU, according to the school’s website.

Overall rank: 28 (tie), Regional Universities (South)
Total enrollment: 2,293
2011 six-year graduation rate: 44 percent

3 (tie). Hampton University (VA)

Hampton University was founded in 1868 as the Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute. Notable alumni include Booker T. Washington, a renowned educator, speaker and author who founded and presided at Tuskegee University in Alabama until his death in 1915.

Overall rank: 27, Regional Universities (South)
Total enrollment: 3,799
2011 six-year graduation rate: 55 percent

3 (tie). Morehouse College (GA)

Founded in a church in Augusta, Georgia, in 1867 and later moved to Atlanta, Morehouse College is a liberal arts institution and the only all-male HBCU in the country. Notable alumnus Martin Luther King Jr. graduated from the institution in 1948. Morehouse has also produced five Rhodes Scholars, more than any other HBCU, according to the school.

Overall rank: 143 (tie), National Liberal Arts Colleges
Total enrollment: 2,202
2011 six-year graduation rate: 55 percent

2. Howard University (DC)

Founded in 1867, Howard University is an urban, national university located in the nation’s capital. The school is home to the country’s first black-owned public radio station, WHUT, which still runs and reaches more than 2.5 million households today, according to the school’s website.

Overall rank: 89 (tie), National Universities
Total enrollment: 6,354
2011 six-year graduation rate: 63 percent

1. Spelman College (GA)

Founded as Atlanta Baptist Female Seminary in 1881, Spelman College emerged from its origins in a church basement, according to the school’s website, to the top HBCU in the country. The all-female liberal arts school was rated in a tie at No. 51 out of 207 colleges ranked by high school counselors.

Overall rank: 51 (tie), National Liberal Arts Colleges
Total enrollment: 2,137
2011 six-year graduation rate: 75 percent

Learn more about HBCUs

Thinking about attending an HBCU? Read student accounts about the HBCU experience and consider these tips to decide if an HBCU is right for you. Follow U.S. News Education on Twitter and Facebook to find advice on researching, applying to and paying for college.

Highest-ranked historically black universities

— 1. Spelman College

— 2. Howard University

— 3 (tie). Hampton University

— 3 (tie). Morehouse College

— 5. Xavier University of Louisiana

— 6. Fisk University

— 7 (tie). Claflin University

— 7 (tie). North Carolina A&T State University

— 9. Florida A&M University

— 10. North Carolina Central University

More from U.S. News

10 Historically Black Colleges Where Alumni Contribute the Most

10 Most Diverse Historically Black Schools

Minority Students, Avoid Becoming a Student Loan Statistic

Top 10 Historically Black Colleges and Universities originally appeared on usnews.com

Update 02/13/19: This slideshow has been updated to reflect ranks and data from the 2019 U.S. News Best Colleges rankings.

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