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Historically Black Colleges and Universities

What data do you have on historically Black colleges and universities in the U.S.?


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, contributed substantially to the progress Black Americans made in improving their status (source).

In 2017, there were 102 HBCUs located in 19 states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Of the 102 HBCUs, 51 were public institutions and 51 were private nonprofit institutions (source). The number of HBCU students increased 47 percent, from 223,000 to 327,000 students, between 1976 and 2010, then decreased 9 percent, to 298,000 students, between 2010 and 2017 (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 6 percent, to 20 million students, between 2010 and 2017 (forthcoming).

Although HBCUs were originally founded to educate Black students, they enroll students of other races as well. This diversity has increased over time (source). In 2017, non-Black students made up 24 percent of enrollment at HBCUs, compared with 15 percent in 1976 (source).

While Black enrollment at HBCUs increased by 19 percent between 1976 and 2017, the total number of Black students enrolled in all degree-granting postsecondary institutions more than doubled during this period. As a result, among Black students the percentage enrolled at HBCUs fell from 18 percent in 1976 to 9 percent in 2010, then showed no measurable change between 2010 and 2017 (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 fall 1976 to 61 percent in fall 2017. Also in 2017, some 87 percent of HBCU students attended a 4-year institution, while 13 percent attended a 2-year institution. About 76 percent of HBCU students attended public institutions, while the remaining 24 percent attended private nonprofit institutions (source).

In academic year 2016–17, some 49,500 degrees were conferred by HBCUs. Of the degrees conferred by HBCUs, associate’s degrees accounted for 11 percent, more than two thirds were bachelor’s degrees (68 percent), while master’s degrees accounted for 16 percent of degrees, and doctor’s degrees accounted for 5 percent. Of the degrees awarded at HBCUs, the majority (74 percent) were conferred to Black students. Black students earned 45 percent of the 5,500 associate’s degrees, 81 percent of 33,500 the bachelor’s degrees, 70 percent of the 8,000 master’s degrees, and 62 percent of the 2,500 doctor’s degrees in 2016–17. At all levels, the majority of degrees awarded to Black students were awarded to Black female students (source).

Over time, the percentages of bachelor's and master's degrees awarded to Black students by HBCUs have decreased. For example, HBCUs awarded 35 percent of the bachelor's degrees and 21 percent of the master's degrees Black students earned in 1976–77, compared with 14 and 6 percent, respectively, of bachelor's and master's degrees Black students earned in 2016–17 (source, source, source, and source). Additionally, the percentage of Black doctor's degree recipients who received their degrees from HBCUs was lower in 2016–17 (11 percent) than in 1976–77 (14 percent) (source, source, and source).

The total revenue for HBCUs in 2016–17 was $8.3 billion, with $1.9 billion from student tuition and fees. Total expenditures were $7.9 billion, of which $2.3 billion was spent on instruction (source).

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