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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 2020, there were 101 HBCUs located in 19 states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Of the 101 HBCUs, 52 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 15 percent (to 279,000 students) between 2010 and 2020 (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 10 percent (to 19 million students) between 2010 and 2020 (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 2020, non-Black students1 made up 24 percent of enrollment at HBCUs, compared with 15 percent in 1976 (source).2

While Black enrollment at HBCUs increased by 11 percent between 1976 and 2020, the total number of Black students enrolled in all degree-granting postsecondary institutions 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 2020 (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 2020. Also in 2020, some 88 percent of HBCU students attended 4-year institutions, while the remaining 12 percent attended 2-year institutions. About 77 percent of HBCU students attended public institutions, while the remaining 23 percent attended private nonprofit institutions (source).

In academic year 2019–20, some 48,200 degrees were conferred by HBCUs: 11 percent were associate’s degrees, more than two-thirds were bachelor’s degrees (69 percent), 14 percent were master’s degrees, and 6 percent were doctor’s degrees. Of the degrees conferred by HBCUs, the majority (73 percent) were conferred to Black students. Black students earned 44 percent of the 5,200 associate’s degrees, 79 percent of the 33,200 bachelor’s degrees, 72 percent of the 7,000 master’s degrees, and 59 percent of the 2,800 doctor’s degrees conferred by HBCUs in 2019–20. At all levels, just over two-thirds of degrees conferred to Black students were conferred to Black female students (source).

Over time, the percentages of bachelor’s and master’s degrees conferred to Black students by HBCUs have decreased. 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 2019–20 (source, source, source, and source). Additionally, the percentage of Black doctor’s degree recipients who received their degrees from HBCUs was lower in 2019–20 (10 percent) than in 1976–77 (14 percent) (source, source, and source).

The total revenue for HBCUs in 2019–20 was $9.0 billion, with $1.9 billion from student tuition and fees. Total expenditures were $8.4 billion, of which $2.3 billion was spent on instruction (source).

1Prior to 2010, students of Two or more races were required to select a single category from among the offered race/ethnicity categories (i.e., White, Black, Hispanic, Asian, and American Indian/Alaska Native).

2Before Two or more races was introduced as a reporting option in 2010, the percentage of non-Black students had fluctuated between 17 and 18 percent from 1992 to 2009. Following this change, the percentage of non-Black students (including those of Two or more races) in HBCUs increased to 24 percent in 2020.

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