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Historically Black Colleges and Universities

What data do you have on historically Black colleges and universities in the United States?


Historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) are institutions that were established prior to 1964 with the principal mission of educating Black Americans (source). These institutions were founded and developed in an environment of legal segregation and, by providing access to higher education, they contributed substantially to the progress Black Americans made in improving their status (source).

In 2021, there were 99 HBCUs located in 19 states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Of the 99 HBCUs, 50 were public institutions and 49 were private nonprofit institutions (source). The number of HBCU students increased by 47 percent (from 223,000 to 327,000 students) between 1976 and 2010, then decreased by 12 percent (to 287,000 students) between 2010 and 2021 (source). In comparison, the number of students in all degree-granting institutions increased 91 percent (from 11 million to 21 million students) between 1976 and 2010, then decreased 11 percent (to 19 million students) between 2010 and 2021 (source).

Although HBCUs were originally founded to educate Black students, they enroll students of other races as well. The composition of HBCUs has changed over time. In 2021, non-Black students made up 25 percent of enrollment at HBCUs, compared with 15 percent in 1976 (source).1

While Black enrollment at HBCUs increased by 14 percent between 1976 and 2021, the total number of Black students enrolled in all degree-granting postsecondary institutions (both HBCUs and non-HBCUs) more than doubled during this period. As a result, the percentage of Black students enrolled at HBCUs fell from 18 percent in 1976 to 8 percent in 2014 and then increased to 9 percent in 2021. (source, source, and source).

Female enrollment at HBCUs has been higher than male enrollment in every year since 1976. The percentage of female enrollment at HBCUs increased from 53 percent in 1976 to 64 percent in 2021. Also in 2021, some 88 percent of HBCU students attended 4-year institutions, while the remaining 12 percent attended 2-year institutions. About 76 percent of HBCU students attended public institutions, while the remaining 24 percent attended private nonprofit institutions (source).

In academic year 2020–21, some 48,200 degrees were conferred by HBCUs: 10 percent were associate’s degrees, more than two-thirds were bachelor’s degrees (70 percent), 14 percent were master’s degrees, and 6 percent were doctor’s degrees. Of the degrees conferred by HBCUs, the majority (74 percent) were conferred to Black students. Black students earned 43 percent of the 5,000 associate’s degrees, 80 percent of the 33,600 bachelor’s degrees, 72 percent of the 6,900 master’s degrees, and 60 percent of the 2,700 doctor’s degrees conferred by HBCUs in 2020–21. Of all degrees conferred by HBCUs to Black students, more than two-thirds were conferred to female students (69 percent). (source).

Of all the bachelor’s and master’s degrees conferred to Black students, the percentage conferred by HBCUs has decreased over time. For example, HBCUs conferred 35 percent of the bachelor’s degrees and 21 percent of the master’s degrees Black students earned in 1976–77, compared with 13 and 5 percent, respectively, in 2020–21 (source, source, source, and source). Additionally, the percentage of Black doctor’s degree recipients who received their degrees from HBCUs was lower in 2020–21 (10 percent) than in 1976–77 (14 percent) (source, source, and source).

The total revenue for HBCUs in 2020–21 was $12.4 billion, with $1.8 billion from student tuition and fees. Total expenditures were $8.8 billion, of which $2.2 billion was spent on instruction (source).

1Data come from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS). Prior to 2010, IPEDS required institutions to report all students as belonging to a single racial/ethnic group (i.e., White, Black, Hispanic, Asian, and American Indian/Alaska Native). From 1992 to 2009, under this single-choice design, the percentage of non-Black students fluctuated between 17 and 18 percent. Beginning in 2010, IPEDS asks institutions to separately report students of single racial/ethnic backgrounds and those of two or more races. Since this reporting change, students reported as Two or more races have been included in the percentage of non-Black students. Although students reported as Two or more races may be Black (and another race), it is not possible to determine that with the available data.

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