For figures such as Vice President Kamala Harris, actor Chadwick Boseman, and ActOne Group founder Janice Bryant Howroyd, Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) have set the educational foundation for some of the brightest minds in politics, the arts, and business for nearly 200 years. For the thousands of students following in their footsteps today, they can expect both an incredible learning experience that challenges and inspires them, as well as a network of alumni who can guide them on their journey to the career of their dreams. The history and future of today’s HBCUs HBCUs are institutions that were established before the Civil Rights Act of 1964 with the mission to provide Black students with access to higher education when legal segregation made admission to traditional public and private universities difficult, if not impossible. Today, there are more than 100 HBCUs in the U.S., and after a years-long decline in enrollment, admission this past year has skyrocketed due in part to the Black Lives Matter and racial justice movement, the rise of noteworthy alums in the political arena, and a record influx of financial gifts. It’s not just the big names like Howard, Morehouse, and Florida A&M on an upward trend—smaller colleges experienced an unprecedented influx of students in 2021. Freshmen enrollment at North Carolina’s Shaw University, for instance, jumped nearly 50 percent, while South Carolina State saw a nearly 40 percent increase. The benefits of enrolling at an HBCU In addition to preparing students for the professional world, HBCUs provide them with a supportive community that celebrates diversity and inclusion. But that’s only the beginning—other benefits of HBCUs include: Higher student engagement and retainment – HBCUs make up only three percent of the nation’s colleges and universities, but produce almost 20 percent of Black professionals. According to UNCF, “HBCUs outperform non-HBCU institutions in retaining and graduating Black students, after accounting for the socioeconomic status and academic preparation of enrolled students.” Value and affordability – College can be cost-prohibitive for many students, and if they are able to enroll, student debt can follow them for decades, impacting their future financial security. Research shows that nearly 87 percent of Black students have to take out federal loans to attend college and that Black graduates owe nearly twice as much in student loan debt after college than their white peers. Because the cost of attending an HBCU is 28 percent less than a comparable non-HBCU, these colleges offer a great value for the money and help ease some of the financial burden for students. In a Gallup report, 40 percent of HBCU graduates report feeling financially secure, as opposed to 29 percent of Black students who attended other colleges. However, one note to consider is that because of limited resources, many smaller HBCUs do not have as many scholarship opportunities available as larger schools or non-HBCUs. Therefore, it’s important to do your homework when comparing universities to find the best value for your money. A network to support students – HBCUs create a supportive, safe space conducive to learning and building strong student/faculty relationships. In addition, these universities are renowned for their alumni networks, which provide ongoing mentoring and valuable networking opportunities while students are in school and throughout your professional life. An engaging cultural experience – For many Black students, the ability to be surrounded by others with similar backgrounds and cultural experiences eases the transition to college and allows them to immerse themselves in their education. However, HBCUs aren’t limited to students of African descent—all races and ethnicities are welcome on campus. In fact, enrollment numbers for Hispanic or Latino students and international students have grown significantly over the past few years. Enriching programs in all education fields – Just like the students they serve, the majors and courses HBCUs offer are incredibly diverse. And as industries evolve, especially when it comes to technology, HBCUs remain at the forefront of innovation. These colleges represent seven of the top eight institutions that graduate the highest number of Black students who go into STEM fields, and Spelman College produces the highest number of Black women with science and engineering degrees among all colleges. If you’re an ALVS student considering an HBCU, now’s the time to look at all the opportunities you have available! As enrollment continues to increase, the field is becoming even more competitive for both admission spots and scholarships. Talk to your ALVS Student Support Specialist at 855-550-2547 today to discuss your options and ensure that you’re on the right path to meet the admission and scholarship requirements for the schools on your list.