Sunday, October 22, 2006


Accomplishments of HBCUs (snippets)

Historically Black Colleges and Universities and Higher Education Desegregation

U.S. Department of Education
Office for Civil Rights
Washington, D.C. 20202-1100

March 1991


Historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) were established to serve the educational needs of black Americans. Prior to the time of their establishment, and for many years afterwards, blacks were generally denied admission to traditionally white institutions. As a result, HBCUs became the principle means for providing postsecondary education to black Americans.

Today, HBCUs must fulfill educational goals far beyond those initially set. President George Bush described the unique mission of black colleges as follows:

"At a time when many schools barred their doors to black Americans, these colleges offered the best, and often the only, opportunity for a higher education."

Today, thank heavens, most of those barriers have been brought down by the law, and yet historically black colleges and universities still represent a vital component of American higher education.

By 1953, more-than 32,000 students were enrolled in such well known private black institutions as Fisk University, Hampton Institute, Howard University, Meharry Medical College, Morehouse College, Spelman College, and Tuskegee Institute, as well as a host of smaller black colleges located in southern and border states. In the same year, over 43,000 students were enrolled in public black colleges. HBCUs enrolled 3,200 students in graduate programs. These private and public institutions mutually served the important mission of providing education for teachers, ministers, lawyers, and doctors for the black population in a racially segregated society.
In 1954, the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education rejected the "separate but equal" doctrine and held that racially segregated public schools deprive black children of equal protection guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution. The Plessy decision, which had governed public education policy for more than a half-century, was overturned. Despite the landmark Supreme Court decision in Brown, most HBCUs remained segregated with poorer facilities and budgets compared with traditionally white institutions. Lack of adequate libraries and scientific and research equipment and capabilities placed a serious handicap on many. Many of the public HBCUs closed or merged with traditionally white institutions. However, most black college students continued to attend HBCUs years after the decision was rendered.


Under the plans, substantial progress has been made by many states in desegregation of their state systems of higher education. At the same time, HBCUs continue to be a vital resource in the nation's educational system. Among their accomplishments are the following:

HBCUs have played an historical role in enhancing equal educational opportunity for all students.

  • More than 80 percent of all black Americans who received degrees in medicine and dentistry were trained at the two traditionally black institutions of medicine and dentistry--Howard University and Meharry Medical College. (Today, these institutions still account for 19.7 percent of degrees awarded in medicine and dentistry to black students.)
  • HBCUs have provided undergraduate training for three fourths of all black persons holding a doctorate degree; three fourths of all black officers in the armed forces; and four fifths of all black federal judges.
  • HBCUs are leading institutions in awarding baccalaureate degrees to black students in the life sciences, physical sciences mathematics, and engineering.
  • HBCUs continue to rank high in terms of the proportion of graduates who pursue and complete graduate and professional training.

Fifty percent of black faculty in traditionally white research universities received their bachelor's degrees at an HBCU.


Today, there are 107 HBCUs with more than 228,000 students enrolled. Fifty-six institutions are under private control, and 51 are public colleges and universities. The public institutions account for more than two-thirds of the students in historically black institutions. Most (87) of the institutions are four-year colleges or universities, and 20 are two-year institutions. In the past, more than 80 percent of all black college graduates have been trained at these HBCUs.

Today, HBCUs enroll 20 percent of black undergraduates. However, HBCUs award 40 percent of baccalaureate degrees earned by black college students.


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